TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
We are a small (though fast growing) company with offices around the
world: our development centre is in Dublin, Ireland. Our customers are
spread around the globe, but some are fairly close to home. Our
Publications department comprises four fulltime writers in Dublin, and
two part-time writers/production people in Munich.
In March this year I visited a user site in the UK with a colleague
from development. We came up with a number of goals for the visit:
*learn about our users (we designed a survey to ask them leading
questions about learning style, levels of education, amount of
experience, how much time they had spent working with our product,
what other similar other products had they used, etc.)
*learn about the users' work environment (lighting, noise, space,
whether they found it easy to work in)
*learn about their levels of satisfaction with our software and with
*address some of the technical problems they were having.
This "multi-goal" approach was an excellent justification for the
visit. We learned a lot from a two-day visit. We got a good return
from the survey since we were there in person to encourage them to
fill it out. We also interviewed about 10 or 12 users. On our return
we compiled the results of the survey and the interviews, and included
these in a report on the visit. We have found the information very
useful in the design of the product and of the documentation and
training. We also passed a copy of the report back to management at
the site (without the actual responses as we had promised the
respondents that it was an anonymous survey).
An added benefit of the visit was an establishing of a better
relationship with the customers at that site.
I hope to send more of our writers on visits of this kind. The
combination of Pubs and Development is a good one. This approach works
well for smaller companies who are a LONG way from the customised