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


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!

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."

------- End of Forwarded Message

Previous by Author: Re: Controlled English
Next by Author: The Lessons of ValuJet 592
Previous by Thread: Seeking contact with colleagues from the DC area
Next by Thread: The Lessons of ValuJet 592

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads