TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:User analysis From:Damien Braniff <Damien_Braniff -at- PAC -dot- CO -dot- UK> Date:Tue, 17 Mar 1998 12:53:27 +0000
As part of my ongoing project work somebody here said something which got
me thinking and I'd like some additional opinions please. We were talking
about targeting writing for our audience and he stated that, GENERALLY, we
are writing for a fairly homogenous audience. I started to argue but, on
reflection, it may be true. For example, when I am creating installation
manuals I am writing for engineers. I know skills etc will vary but ALL
engineers in the access control industry should have the same basic
technical understanding of electronics, access control terms and so on.
Ditto with user information, we class them as computer literate etc. Our
"level" may vary from group to group but we DO aim at a homogenous audience
by the very nature of the user analysis we carry out. Similary, books
like the .... for Dummies are aimed at a homogenous group; I may well buy
the Rays' HTML for Dummies as I know virtually nothing about HTML. If I
was proficient in HTML then I may well pick another book more suited to my
The aim of audience analysis, which we all do in one way or another, is to
"define" a homogenous group to write for - the level which our defined
group will easily understand. This poses some problems for me as I have no
direct contact with the end user. The installer is fine - I can talk to
the installer, gauge competence, find out what they'd like in the manual
and pitch the docs accordingly. The end user, however, is another matter.
Apart from having no direct contact I can see no common factors at all with
users ranging from guards (minimal/no PC experience) to PC whizzes and all
variations in-between. How can the user docs be pitched at the users? Do
I go for the lowest common denominator and possibly end up seeming
patronisjng? Have split docs but there is no I can target them - be
relying on installers. Currently we do a User Reference Manual and a Quick
User Guide but is this the best way to go?