Re: know your ... who?

Subject: Re: know your ... who?
From: "John Posada" <jposada99 -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2008 08:24:06 -0500

> How do you writerly folk, who work for companies that make esoteric,
> tens-of-thousands-of-dollars-per-unit products for technical users who
> live on the other side of the world, ever manage to become intimately
> acquainted with those users and their documentation needs?

You don't have to have taken your users out for a beer to know them. In
fact, you need to have never met them. You can, instead, have personas and
use cases available to you.

Your company can, in conjunction with marketing, sales, and usability
design, create 3-6 personas that describe your users. You then have a
profile sheet of the user that you refer to whenever you are writing for
that person. I've been in situations where when trying to decide what and
how to include something in a document, frame by saying "What would Philip
do in this situation", or "What would Fred need to know here.", where Phil
was a persona of a user and Fred was a persona of a network administrator.

The other tool is "use cases". Use cases define every action that your
targeted user would do with the product and you write for these use cases.
To take it to the extreme, let's say that there is no use case for printing
anything friom the application. You therefore do not include any
instructions on how to print. OTOH, there may be multiple use cases
surrounding the ability to export data from the application and import into
a spreadsheet. You therefore make sure that you cover this feature.

In summary, personas and use cases are used to compliment each other; one
(use case) tells what they do and the other (persona) tells how a user
approaches that function.

John Posada

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know your ... who?: From: McLauchlan, Kevin

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