Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 3 Sep 1996 to 4 Sep 1996

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 3 Sep 1996 to 4 Sep 1996
From: Marilyn Barrett O'Leary <moleary -at- LSUVM -dot- SNCC -dot- LSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 5 Sep 1996 08:27:27 +0100

Re: Jennifer Chiki wrote on Audience Analysis:

> I am sure many of you can relate to my situation - I really have no idea
> WHO I am writing for.

> So, I am attempting to put together a proposal on how my development lab
> can obtain user feedback and audience analysis in order to improve our
> documentation and also improve writer confidence.

> I would like to develop some audience analysis tools such as a
> questionnaires, client site visits, customer interviews, job shadowing,
> etc., to determine just who are users are and what sort of documentation
> needs they have.

The short answer to your question is that any or all of the above tools
will tell you something about your users and their needs, and each has a
limitation. The questionnaire efficiently provides a lot of information
but structuring it objectively and clearly is very difficult and the rate
of return averages 50 percent or less. Client site visits and customer
interviews will provide a smaller quantity of information. It can be good
quality if you carefully select those you will interview. Job shadowing is
time intensive, and you may get caught up in the persons and the politics
of the place.

Any or all of these techniques will tell you a lot. To maximize your
return, I suggest you isolate or focus what you want to know about the WHO:
(1) what people want in the product, (2) what they actually use, (3) how
they use it, (4) difficulties they might have with it, and or demographic
information like (1) user abilities, (2) user age, (3) field or industry in
which the product is being used, (4) position of the user in this field
etc.

Since an analysis of the audience for your existing product will give you
a profile of those who already have some use for your products, you can use
this as one basis of comparison when you focus your research.

The long answer to your question is that you are dealing with PEOPLE in
TIME, and that means multidimensional needs and user characteristics that
are continuously changing. You are not going to ever know the WHO with
great certainty. To give you some idea of the diversity involved in your
question, I will put together a small bibliography and send it privately
within the next few days. Good Luck. Marilyn

Marilyn Barrett O'Leary
Louisiana Sea Grant College Program
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-7507
504-388-6349
moleary -at- lsuvm -dot- sncc -dot- lsu -dot- edu

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