Re: Documentation not as important anymore?

Subject: Re: Documentation not as important anymore?
From: Kelly Hoffman <kelly -at- NASHUA -dot- HP -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 1994 14:24:40 EDT

Anatole Wilson <awilson -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM> writes:

[quoting a study conducted by Sentry Market Research]

> " Looking back further into industry history, Walsh observed that,
> ten years ago, documentation was the most important feature to
> software buyers. Today, though, corporate concern over documentation
> is far outweighed by interest in support, with 72 percent of
> respondents rating support, service and training as "very important,"
> and only 47 percent doing so for documentation.

Interesting that 10 years ago most software documentation was
abysmal (IMHO :-), yet it was listed as "the most important feature."
Now, docs are, overall, significantly better, and it's lower on the list.

Could it be that the people responding to this survey were simply
remembering the things about software that they thought were awful?
In other words, now that they're not peeved by the documentation, it's
not as important, but they are peeved by the lack of support, so it has
been elevated to "very important."

Or, to look at it another way, the differences between the docs for
competing software packages are much less than they were ten years
ago, since quality has risen overall. Consequently, doc quality isn't
as much of a deciding factor. However, support and training still vary
considerably from one vendor to the next, so these have become more
important when deciding which package to buy.

> A manager or exec readin this study might conclude
> their money is better spent on a couple of people answering service calls
> rather than on writers, designers, online help-building software, and
> printing costs.

And this points nicely to the problem of using sketchy surveys and polls
to draw sweeping conclusions. There's no way of knowing (from the
info quoted, anyway) *why* software buyers rate support, service, and
training as being so very important.

Kelly K. Hoffman kelly -at- nashua -dot- hp -dot- com
Learning Products Engineer
Hewlett-Packard, Network Test Division "Reading the manual is
One Tara Blvd., Nashua, NH 03062 admitting defeat."

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