Re: Bloated Docs: Identifying What's Useful

Subject: Re: Bloated Docs: Identifying What's Useful
From: Keith Hood <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: DoughtyTechWriter Mordant <doughtytechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2012 19:01:26 -0800 (PST)

If it's at all possible to do so, start by using the products yourself and see what questions about them you generate. That will give you  a good baseline idea of what a novice new user will need, in addition to anything you can get from surveys.

You'll have better luck with the surveys if you advertise them as part of an effort by the company to do a broad-scale updating of the products and the documentation, rather than just asking them questions about what they want.  Better emotional buy-in that way.  They are a lot more likely to give you good feedback (or to even bother to respond to a survey at all) if they think they have a chance to make some difference in the situation.


I fully agree with Gene's suggestion to NOT think in terms of keep/trash.  You never know what might prove vital later, to some niche group of users. 

Also think about how the documentation is delivered.  If it's all nothing but PDFs that can be downloaded through FTP, maybe it's time to field a more user-friendly access system.



________________________________
From: DoughtyTechWriter Mordant <doughtytechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2012 6:57 PM
Subject: Bloated Docs: Identifying What's Useful

Hello, everyone. Doughtytechwriter here with a question about figuring out what user guide info is useful.

Situation: My company has mature, highly technical products. For many years, the company hired contract technical writers only as a need was perceived. They patched up the existing documents and were then let go. The manuals now are inconsistent in style, scope and organization. They have also ballooned in size and many people think a lot of the information is overkill that no one uses.

I am the first full-time writer and am trying to pull things into shape. I want to do a content survey to find out which parts of the existing documents are useful for our clients.

Situation:

1. My boss understands and supports my content survey.

2. My boss will allow me to go on local client visits and ask questions.

3. I'm also allowed to use SurveyMonkey.

4. Our installed client base is world-wide and our documents are translated into 14 languages. I'd like to learn about preferences of our clients around the world, but I won't be getting on an airplane any time soon.

How would you go about figuring out what content to keep and what to toss? How do you find out what end users actually find helpful?

Thanks for all ideas and suggestions.

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Create and publish documentation through multiple channels with Doc-To-Help. Choose your authoring formats and get any output you may need.

Try Doc-To-Help, now with MS SharePoint integration, free for 30-days.

http://bit.ly/doc-to-help

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References:
Bloated Docs: Identifying What's Useful: From: DoughtyTechWriter Mordant

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