RE: know your ... who?

Subject: RE: know your ... who?
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "John Posada" <jposada99 -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2008 10:39:49 -0500

"Usability design"?!? <giggle> <chortle>

Our stuff is designed by engineers, for engineers/developers. Interface
is command-line. We've had initiatives twice now to create GUIs for at
least config, if not for ongoing admin functions, and both times they
were dropped. The products are hardware, with software toolkits and some
CLI config and management tools. Any application in the sense that you
mean is either:

a) already in existence and sold by a customer/third-party and the
task is to integrate our box (or card, or...) to be used in place of a
less secure, less efficient software module for certain key functions of
that existing customer application (think of Entrust GUTS, or the
inter-bank transaction software used by the international
financial-transaction clearinghouses), or

b) not already existing, and the customer's task is to develop
their own specialty app to use for their own purposes, making use of our
equipment and libraries in the mix (thus the toolkit).

So software use-cases are probably developed by all the partner
companies whose logos adorn our website, because they are the ones that
have big commercial (or in-house, back-shop) applications. But those
use-cases are used by those companies' developers and techwriters,
downstream from us. On our end of it, use-cases would [very loosely]
translate to the individual integrations of our devices with the more
popular third-party applications and environments (Java, IIS, .net, and
all kinds of enterprise security and crypto applications). Those we do
separately. We're not even gonna include them in my docs/help any more.
Instead, they'll be individually downloadable pdfs on the company
website, written by the India-based engineer who performed and recorded
the steps, and maybe edited by me.

The last time I had a use for personas was in the late nineteen-eighties
at that long-defunct company/division (Philips Information Systems, a
[former] North American division of NV Philips of the Netherlands) where
I began my techwriting career. The North American plant had been making
dedicated word processing machines (they bought Micom, a then-competitor
of Wang) and then switched over to making PCs (who among you owned a
Philips 80x86-based PC; raise your hands please... I don't see any hands
except my own...) , so the uber company thought the Information Systems
division would be just the place to make a new integrated desktop
publishing and office system, including some fabulous (at the time) new
high-resolution "paperwhite" displays. Took too long. Division folded.
All our good work went pffuie. Then it was off to a company making
satellite uplink/downlink and microwave relay systems (back before those
were a commodity), followed by a cellular telephony systems company. In
the microwave-stuff company, the products were one-offs, on tight
schedules, so no dilly-dallying with personas and use-cases. In the
cellular-systems company, the writing was mostly tech bulletins, rather
than wide-ranging general stuff with a lot of options. No use-cases or
personas there either.

Maybe that will come before I retire. :-)



From: John Posada [mailto:jposada99 -at- gmail -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2008 08:24

How do you writerly folk, who work for companies that make
tens-of-thousands-of-dollars-per-unit products for technical
users who
live on the other side of the world, ever manage to become
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 ...[...]

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know your ... who?: From: McLauchlan, Kevin
Re: know your ... who?: From: John Posada

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