Audience analysis and usability research after content is written

Subject: Audience analysis and usability research after content is written
From: Ilya Haykinson <haykinson -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 23:02:19 -0700

Hi all,

You may remember me soliciting help with the Ubuntu manual a few months back
-- many thanks to those of you who helped out with this project. The results
-- our first edition -- is available for free download (or at-cost purchase)
at We've had over 50,000 downloads in the first
seven days of the manual's release, which in my opinion is a great
indication that we're doing something that people need.

As we gear up for a second edition and following editions for future
versions of the operating system, I'm facing the need to do some research to
figure out whether our manual is adequate for our audience. I wanted to ask
your opinion on performing this kind of research.

Given that our manual is for something as general as an operating system,
how should we go about doing the research to figure out whether we've
written what people want? Are the people we think would want to use actually
reading the manual? How are they reading it? Why are they reading it? Are we
successful in providing good instruction or are people confused?

It appears to me that we may need both qualitative and quantitative
research; we may need to establish multiple personae to better understand
reader needs. However, I lack the background in research to understand how
we may want to jump into studying a first-generation manual for an existing
product, and am kind of unclear what kind of question we'd ask and how we'd
work with folks (assuming we solve the problem of recruiting people for
focus groups etc).

Can anyone suggest some things to think about, or approaches to take? (or,
does anyone want to help out?)

-ilya haykinson
ubuntu manual project

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