RE: e-books

Subject: RE: e-books
From: aschiff -at- factset -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 12:08:15 -0500

Chiming in late on this one -

"CB Casper" <knowone -at- surfy -dot- net> wrote:

<<We suspect management is trying to justify
eliminating hard copy books. We, being smarter
than managers (we think!), have anticipated
this management bias. We have created a survey
and are going to ask our customers for their
thoughts on documentation. We then will have
some data to utilize to make decisions.>>

1. I will heartily agree with John Posada's response -- odds are, you're
not going to get many responses. Users have a very big "what's in it for
me?" attitude and will generally not fill out a survey on documentation
(yawn) unless there's some incentive, i.e. completing the survey enters
them in a drawing to win a free Palm Pilot.

2. Have you thought about asking your customer support reps for this
information? They'll be more likely to respond to a survey, and they have
front-line experience with your users.

3. In discussions like these, I always consider the following holy trinity:
- What users SAY they want
- What users REALLY want
- What users NEED
If one user out of 20,000 only uses printed manuals, is that justification
for printing and maintaining them? If a lot of users say "I absolutely
don't want to use online help instead of a manual" -- does that mean that
they will stop buying your product if you discontinue print manuals? Or
will they merely be annoyed? (Not that 'users being annoyed' is something
any of us should take lightly - but still, there's an important distinction
there.) Are users opposed to online as an entire medium, or have they had
bad experiences with crappy online doc before? What features of an online
doc format would appeal to them and make them want to use it?

When my dept. moved from "primarily print" to "primarily online"
documentation, we heard the expected chorus of "The Sky is Falling."
However, after educating our customer service reps and sales team on how to
use the online doc to its fullest capabilities - as well as implementing
key enhancements & features they were clamoring for -- we've won the
majority of the naysayers over. We still do produce some print doc, but
just for the "big picture" material -- all the nitty-gritty details (12,000
pages' worth) are online. That's how we get the most bang for our buck.

So - to make a long story short - make sure you are adding value to this
discussion. Knee-jerk responses (even to ill-considered initiatives) will
endear you to no one, Management included.

Abby Schiff
FactSet Research Systems

PC Magazine gives RoboHelp Office 2002 five stars - a perfect score!
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