RE: Question about User Feedback

Subject: RE: Question about User Feedback
From: "Cardimon, Craig" <ccardimon -at- M-S-G -dot- com>
To: 'Chantel Brathwaite' <brathwaitec -at- cacctus -dot- net>
Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2012 15:47:52 +0000

You do have lots of access, Chantel, which is great. I need to make the most of what little I have. Many thanks for your input.

From: Chantel Brathwaite [mailto:brathwaitec -at- cacctus -dot- net]
Sent: Tuesday, September 04, 2012 11:33 AM
To: Cardimon, Craig
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Question about User Feedback

Here's my response:

If you ask users for feedback concerning the instructions, guides, or manuals you create, how do you do it?
It depends on the access that I have to the users. Right now, I have a lot of access and the users are genuinely interested in documentation because the system is quite complex. I've been able to use a full range of techniques, including:
- Site visits and personal interviews
- Observation of seasoned users as they use our system to accomplish their tasks
- Observation of new users as they conduct vignette tests
- Formal learning surveys
- Monitoring of help desk calls and topics
- Sitting in on meetings and Q&A sessions with the users
- Presenting pieces of documentation to the users in advance and asking for their feedback
- Using forums to discuss documentation ideas/issues with users

I also help with training so I've done tons of analysis; including target population descriptions, assessing learning styles, breaking down topics, determining the levels of knowledge that users have for each piece of the system, and so forth. My customer is not actually the user; it is an intermediary group that directly interfaces with the user. As such, they have tons of feedback, which is great. So, I incorporate their lessons learned whenever possible - read between the lines - and do whatever I can to create the right kinds of documentation and training materials/experiences for the end user.

However, I've held many jobs where I had little to no contacts with users. Many of those jobs have not been in places where I could not use social media because of the nature of the customer and the industry. So, in those situations I:

- Monitored any trouble tickets or help desk calls/emails - especially those that are the result of user misuse of the system
- Reviewed any similar type products and get a sense of what kinds of questions a user might ask
- Noted extensively what kinds of issues new users might have; for example the new programmer on the team or myself as the user
- Requested feedback when possible (depends on the customer)

If I can talk to at least one or two users, that usually turns out to be quite helpful. Some feedback is usually better than none!

First, what kind of help do you produce?
I produce PDFs, videos, quick reference cards, cheat sheets, and a web-based documentation page. Most of my documentation is geared towards the end user.

Second, do you ask for feedback on a separate topic/page?
No. Feedback is an integral part of the process. Users can fill out a ticket or discuss documentation in a forum if they so desire. I help with the training also, so I get a chance to speak with the customers face to face.

Third: is the request for feedback in the beginning or at the end?
It is all throughout the process.

I was thinking about inserting a 'Submit Feedback" topic in the beginning, following the Title Page, TOC, and Copyright.
Sounds like a good thing to do. The thing that I think that people like, is being able to see that their feedback has some sort of impact. If you can incorporate their feedback and let people know how you've incorporated it - maybe building some sort of relationship with the user community if that is possible, that seems like it might yield more responses.

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Question about User Feedback: From: Cardimon, Craig
Re: Question about User Feedback: From: Chantel Brathwaite

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