RE: How Many Trees? (WAS: URGENT: Immediate ethical issue

Subject: RE: How Many Trees? (WAS: URGENT: Immediate ethical issue
From: DaLy <swiggles247 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 May 2003 16:55:29 -0700 (PDT)

I am talking about consumer products. When Jane (or
John) Consumer buy a toaster, do they read the docs?
No, of course not. They put in the bread, plug the
toaster's electrical cord into an electrical socket,
press a "button" (on the toaster) and wait until the
toasted bread comes out. When people buy any product,
they first try to set it up without reading any
manuals. Everyone want this "toaster" concept (i.e
plug it in and it works)in their product.

Actually the first thing that a user experiences about
the product is the product itself. The docs are left
in their plastic bag or envelope until the first wave
of frustration hits. I do agree with you regarding
return rates and word-of-mouth purchasing (which is an
indirect sort of "brand appeal"), but price does play
a part in purchasing.

On to research - the results can be slanted and
invalid. For example, the current survey on eHelp's
site allows multiple voting without logging off the
site. Anyone can slant the results. It's not right,
but it does happen. I am sure other surveys have the
same problems.

As to your last sentence: "Making the product easier
to use is what docs are supposed to do." I disagree -
Making the product easier to use is what the technical
team (i.e Design Engineers, Production Engineers, QA,
Usability Engineers, etc) do. Technical Writers
translate the techo-jargon into user friendly
documentation that provide help to Jane and John
Consumer should they need/want it.


PS: I like your website, very User Friendly.

--- Sharon Burton-Hardin <sharon -at- anthrobytes -dot- com>

You can disagree if you want - and I am talking about
consumer products, and think you may not be - docs are
part of the product, in the consumer's head. Research
also shows that users read the docs, or at least flip
thru them to find out if the product does something
and then how to do it.

When Jane Consumer goes thru the docs that came with
her TV and it seems really hard to use the TV, she
will return it and get another brand. And then tell
her friends that brand was not usable.

And other research shows that word of mouth is the way
most consumers choose a brand, all other things being
equal. If your brother-in-law says that the TV brand
he just bought is a good one, useable, and fit to the
purpose, then you are far more likely to purchase that
brand if you are in the market for the item. And this
holds out even more true as the product is more

Return rates are what happens when the user can't
figure it out and support can't fix it - if they
choose to pay the money to call and most charge now.
For the user, docs are just about the first thing
users experience about the product. If the docs are
cheap, badly reproduced, hard to read, or just
plain wrong, then consumers pack the product back up
and take it back. And purchase another brand.

High return rates are very bad and cut into the profit
margins. Things that cut into profit margins are bad
and to be avoided. Making the product easier
to use is what docs are supposed to do.


Sharon Burton-Hardin
CEO, Anthrobytes Consulting

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