Re: Do techies really know what other techies need?

Subject: Re: Do techies really know what other techies need?
From: Elna Tymes <etymes -at- LTS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 1997 14:10:39 -0800

Sella Rush wrote:
> My problem is that the programmer I work most closely with despises all
> my tries at making text more accessible. <snip> But I'm sick and tired of having all my
> suggestions discounted because he's a techie and knows what techies want
> and what they don't want is a lot of clear writing that might insult
> their intelligence.

Boy, do we know this one. Having had to use their technical language to
demonstrate their grasp of technical concepts and thus attain status
with their peers, so many programmers feel (wrongly) that "good"
communication consists largely of explanations pitched at the
supertechie. Unfortunately, we've never found any numbers-based
research that demonstrates user preferences for simple language,
regardless of the technical level of the user. What we have found,
however, amounts to a lot of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of
simple language.

Have you tried informal "usability tests" with sample audience members?
If you have any contact with the users of your company's product (not
the internal programmers, some real paying customers), you might
construct a simple study presenting several examples with wording the
way he thinks is appropriate and wording the way you think is better,
and asking the users to indicate which they prefer and why.

But by all means don't make this an "I'm right and you're not" kind of
exercise. Couch it in terms like "doing a better job of serving our
customers' needs" or something like that.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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