Users vs. audiences

Subject: Users vs. audiences
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 08:50:53 +0800

Geoff Hart asked me to forward this message to the list.

------- Forwarded Message

From: "Geoff Hart" <geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 09:17:03 +0000
Subject: Users vs. audiences

Greets!

Please forward to techwr-l on my behalf, as I can't post directly. I
think you've started an interesting thread, and I'd like to
contribute. Thanks!

--Geoff
*************
Stuart Burnfield raised the very important distinction between
the stereotypical audience ("grateful but passive recipients") and
users (who actually perform tasks), and I hope we get to discuss this
a bit. It's important to understand that audiences are rather complex
beasts. For example, our typical "clients" (as I gracefully avoid the
"a" word!) might include the following:

- people of varying levels of expertise who have tasks to perform
using our documentation ("users").
- people who need to understand the overall nature of our software
(its potential and its limitations) to facilitate their planning,
even though they won't ever do the actual tasks ("managers")
- people who want to learn about a subject to expand their knowledge,
without ever having to do the tasks ("learners" or "browsers")
- people who must support others in their use of the product ("tech.
support", MIS, etc.)
- people who want to use our docs as the basis for writing "X for
Dummies" books <g>.
- people who want to use our docs as part of the overall product
package ("marketers", "checklist-based purchasers")

No wonder audience analysis is a frightening thought! I suspect that
the majority of a technical communicator's audience is concerned
primarily with performing tasks based on the documentation, but
there's still a sizable minority that has other goals.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Hart's corollary to Murphy's law: "Occasionally, things really do work right."

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