RE: User feedback? (was 5 users in a room) - [TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 13, Issue 14]

Subject: RE: User feedback? (was 5 users in a room) - [TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 13, Issue 14]
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 10:18:29 -0500

[[Geoff Hart said...

[[Carrie Baker wondered: <<I would like to prepare a feedback form for
our user guides.>>
[[Be aware that response rates are very low (5% is considered
surprisingly good), and that the people who reply are rarely a truly
representative sample of the overall audience. So you have to use
this kind of feedback with considerable care. Never act solely on the
basis of a feedback form unless it reports an objectively
demonstrable problem (e.g., the page references are wrong or an
entire topic is missing) rather than a subjective "this sucks" or
"this would be better if you eliminate all forms of the verb "to be"
from the documentation".]]

It must be near the end of the year--yesterday my boss asked me if I
would schedule short meetings with about 10 of our project sponsors from
this year to 1) ask them about project requirements for 2007 and 2) get
feedback on the projects we've done for them in 2006.

We're aware of the pitiful response rate Geoff speaks of when it comes
to a low response rate, even among internal customers, and 61 of the 62
projects I've completed or am working on for this year have been
sponsored by and are written for an internal audience. And it's easy to
get annoyed with the sponsors and SMEs who respond to our requests to
review a draft five minutes after it hits their inbox with the
inevitable "Looks great!"

Should I expect that making time to sit down with project sponsors and
document users will give me any better feedback than a form? Everyone's
busy, and the way this company has operated without technical writers
for so long (our department is only 2 years old) I still think the
majority of people don't quite know what to make of us or how we can
(should, ought to, ideally) be helpful to their department within the

[[<<Are there such forms online that I could look at. What sort of
things could I ask?>>
Have a look at my article on this topic for some thoughts:
A few more thoughts on metrics, including the political aspects thereof: ]]

I'll look at your articles, Geoff. In the mean time, if anyone has any
gems of wisdom on how to nudge these meetings with sponsors and users to
be the most productive (and maybe warnings about what not to say or do)
I'd be most appreciative.

I'm on digest mode, so I probably won't see any responses until tomorrow
morning unless they are sent directly.

Thanks, and Happy Tuesday!

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