RE: Audience analysis and usability research after content is written

Subject: RE: Audience analysis and usability research after content is written
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: Ilya Haykinson <haykinson -at- gmail -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 6 May 2010 17:09:51 -0400

From: Ilya Haykinson

> -- 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,
> 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.

> 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?)

Was the download of the manual a completely no-strings affair?
They arrived at the site, clicked a button and watched the
file land on their PC?
Or did you require any "registration" - at least ask for an
e-mail address?

If not, maybe you should.

That would give you an "in" to follow up with a "how are
we doing" e-mail.

"Hi. We saw that you downloaded our Ubuntu Linux manual.
Did it work? Did it help you get the OS installed,
configured, and working optimally on your device?

We did all that work hoping to make a useful and helpful
document. The big thing that we need right now is to
know what needs improving. If you used our manual to
help you get going with Ubuntu and still found yourself
sitting alone and thwarted, in a puddle of tears of
frustration, then we need to know what went wrong.

What broke? Was it hard to find info? Was the info,
once found, wrong? Incomplete? Confusing? Did we use
different terms than you were expecting? Did we fail
to define the terms that we did use? Did we define
unfamiliar terms by using other unfamiliar terms?

When we described how to do something, did we start
at the right place?... someplace you had actually
reached? Or did we jump in with assumptions that
didn't really describe your situation?

Did we get a good start and then not complete the
task? Or if we gave a good description/instruction
to achieve a particular milestone, did we then give
you good pointers to "the next thing?'

Please click _here_ and tell us how we did and what
we need to improve.

If you are stuck, could one of our people contact
you and walk you through what you are trying to
accomplish, so we can see where our manual is
failing... and so you can have a working Ubuntu?"

"For responding to this query, your name is entered
into a drawing for <some nice little prize>.
Winners will be posted (name and city or name
and state/province) after <date>."

Just a thought.

- Kevin

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Audience analysis and usability research after content is written: From: Ilya Haykinson

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