Measures of reader's computer skills -Reply

Subject: Measures of reader's computer skills -Reply
From: Carol Van Natta <CVANNATT -at- ITC -dot- NRCS -dot- USDA -dot- GOV>
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 06:35:30 -0700

Jim, I'd include in your list of characteristics "Users' goals in
using X software." In other words, why are they using the
program -- the underlying reason, not just because the boss
said so. For example, I use Word 7 to produce drafts and
final versions of software and system documentation, and I
therefore want documentation on the features that help me
do my job quicker and easier.

As to a user's computer skills, I'd try to compare roles and
program knowledge. For example, compare a user who has
trouble double-clicking a mouse, to one who knows/uses 5 or
more other programs, to one who can answer most
questions by others about a given program, to the IS
manager who doesn't know the program but knows software.
This (along with your other profile data) should help you
determine what to write and how to present it.

>>> "Snowden, Jim @Cimage" <jims -at- CIMAGE -dot- CO -dot- UK>
12/16/97 3:30 am >>>

I'm doing a bit of readership analysis for our next product
release, and
I'm finding it hard to think of some measures that I can use
for the
different user characteristics. So far, I've been looking at
these areas
to build up a profile of the user:

- User types (novice user/experienced

- Information needs of each type (install/"how to"/background
message meanings/etc.)

- Products used by each user type (unfortunately we have
about a
gazillion different products and versions)

- Computer systems available (processor/screen quality/etc.)

- Working environment (office/underwater/etc.)

- Computer skills

The idea is to design on the information structure, content,
and media
suitable for the different user types.
Does that seem a reasonable list of things to look at or can
you think
of something else?
For the Computer skills bit, I'm finding it hard to think of
some good
measures to use (eg to categorize the users' knowledge and
experience of
computers), so if you've got some ideas, I'd be glad to hear

Finally, despite having been a technical writer for what
seems like eons
this is the first time I've really done a comprehensive user
analysis -
can anyone suggest some good book or resources for finding
out more
about how to do this in a thorough manner (I've got the
Hackos Managing
your document projects book, and that helps but doesn't give
some of the
detail I'm looking for).

Thanks in advance!!

Jim Snowden

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