Re: Documentation Usability Surveys

Subject: Re: Documentation Usability Surveys
From: "Metzger, Lucinda" <cmetzger -at- DUKANE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 13:05:53 -0500


I can just about guarantee that a paper survey sent out with the manuals
will not elicit any response. I've been sending them out with my manuals
for the past five years, and I think I've gotten _maybe_ three back.

The interactive survey/e-mail idea sounds interesting, but is only good
if you know that the majority of the manual's readers have internet
access. Even then, they won't be able to provide valuable input unless
they've actually got the manual in front of them, and have already tried
to use it.

Your idea of having the surveys available during training and
installation sounds the most promising to me, and is something I've been
giving some thought to myself. I just don't think people will bother to
fill something out unless they are guided to do so in a controlled
environment. When people are being trained, or are trying to install
something, you know they've got the manual in front of them. And when
there is a trainer or an installer standing there saying "look, here's
this survey, please fill it out while you're using the document," maybe,
just maybe, they'll actually do it!

I would also be interested in hearing how some of the other techwhirlers
out there have handled this.


>From: Sarah E. Gill[SMTP:SARAHG -at- OTGSOFTWARE -dot- COM]
>Sent: Thursday, October 23, 1997 1:40 PM
>Subject: Documentation Usability Surveys
>I am a (neophyte) technical writer at a software company, and our
>documentation department has not had a practice of soliciting feedback
>from the end users on the quality of the user manuals. I suggested that
>we do so and have been tasked with developing a survey of some sort. My
>question is this: what's the best way to get the most accurate and
>broadest response on something like this? I was wondering whether a
>paper survey sent out with the manuals when they ship is likely to elicit
>any response. I thought that our training and install crew could also
>hand the surveys out when they go onsite. But I was also wondering about
>an email survey or some sort of interactive survey that generates an
>email when they're done. Would that be worth the extra effort? If there
>are any experienced tech writers with brilliant ideas for getting the
>pulse of a documentation audience out there, I would appreciate any
>sarahg -at- otgsoftware -dot- com
>Sarah E. Gill
>Technical Writer
>sarahg -at- otgsoftware -dot- com
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