Re: surveys

Subject: Re: surveys
From: Mark Baker <mbaker -at- OMNIMARK -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Mar 1998 11:56:45 -0500

Damien Braniff wrote

>As part of my thesis project I will be doing a survey of our installers and
>end users. I've been doing some general background reading and and found
>several studies and books that cover (both hard copy and online) the
>usability of the literature. The studies seem to concentrate on usability
>from the perspective of "looks" - readability, use of white space and so
>on. It seems to be assumed that the manuals have been properly edited and
>contain all the information they should contain. Am I missing something?

No, but your sources are missing something. Good documentation is not about
the product but about the user. Specifically it is about the use of the
product to perform specific tasks. This being so, you cannot write good
documentation unless you know what your users do. You need to survey them to
discover things like:

What are their tasks?
What are their tools?
What is their level of knowledge and training?
What conditions do they work under? (At the top of a pole? Under six feet of
What regulations govern their work?
Do they make notes or job aids for themselves (and can you get a copy of
Which pages of the current manual are dog-eared? Which are pristine? Which
have comments written in the margin? What are the comments?

Mark Baker
Manager, Corporate Communications
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Gloucester, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com

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