[no subject]

From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 1997 10:23:22 -0800

At 10:04 PM 1/6/97 -0500, Marlene J. Geary wrote:
>Question - Is there anyone out there who issues "beta" documentation to
>customers who are "beta-testing" software? [snip]
>1) Do you ever hear feedback on the beta docs from these beta customers?
>Actually - do the people and companies that sub to this list get a lot of
>feedback regarding the manuals produced by their respective departments?

As a general rule, you need to at least acknowledge that feedback is
welcomed before you'll get any. ;-)

I've had various levels of success in soliciting comments from beta users.

Most product managers/beta program managers are in the business of
soliciting information from their beta testers and welcome some additional
infomation collection criteria from the doc group. When you know a product
is on its way to beta, consult with the beta coordinator. You may be able
to add some questions to a questionnaire that's distributed to the testers.
If there's no questionnaire, perhaps there is telephone contact.

But don't just ask How did you like the docs? because you won't get much
info. Be specific. Target your questions at areas of the doc set or product
that you're uncomfortable with. For example:

Did you use online help?
What were you doing when you accessed help?
How did you access help?
What information did you hope to find?
Did you find what you were looking for?
How many "tries" did it take?

You can also use beta test questionnaires to query your target audience's
preferred learning style by asking whether they use online tutorials,
search the internet for information, etc. This will help you target your
energies more directly.

If your company has technical support, training, pre-sales support, or
similar departments, you'll be able to get a lot of feedback from them,
too, as soon as they know it's welcomed.

For example, ask tech support what their most frequently asked questions
are. Ask training what concepts new users have the most trouble with.
Ask sales what features they'd like to highlight in the docs.

There's lots of feedback out there. But it isn't going to fall into your
lap. You've got to go get it.

Susan W. Gallagher Manager, Technical Publications
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com Expersoft Corporation, San Diego CA

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