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Subject:Re: No one reads the manuals From:Carla Lotito <Carla_Lotito -at- BAAN -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 22 Dec 1998 13:55:40 -0500
Talk to people internally as well as externally, and make a user study in
your own company. If you have useful documentation, you should have internal
Talk to the following people and try to get e-mails, letters, faxes, or any
other kind of response. You may need to go around the office and do a verbal
survey with people in which you ask each and every person in a specific team
the same question, but you write the answers. This may be faster, and you
will get answers. Tell them to be honest so that you can improve the
Technical support - do they use your manuals? If so, for what purpose, how
do they help or not?
Quality control - do they use your manuals? For what purpose, how do they
help or not? You'll find in many cases manuals are used for testing.
Developers - believe it or not, they do use the manuals to refresh their
memory on something, or learn a part of the software. If they are not using
them, find out why not. Do a survey in which names are not named and find
out if your documents were ever open.
Training - does training use the manuals to make training material? Find out
what their view of the manuals is, how does it help them, are documents used
in the training courses?
Sales - do they use the manuals? And why?
Of course, these are your internal users, but you probably have more users
than you think, and if your documentation adds value inside the company, it
will probably add value outside the company.
Getting information on external users may be more difficult, but try finding
out names of large numbers of users and send a survey (with some kind of
goodie to have them return the survey) of whether they know documentation
exists or not (this is crucial), and ask questions such as Have you looked
at the accompanying xyz manual? What do you like the most? What do you like
the least? You could do this survey in conjunction with some other company
activity to get support from other teams.
Start there, compile the facts, and see where it takes you...
Carla Lotito, Technical Writer
e-mail: carla_lotito -at- baan -dot- com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Suzanne Gerrior [SMTP:SGerrior -at- RAYMARKX -dot- COM]
> Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 1998 1:35 PM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: No one reads the manuals
> This message is in MIME format. Since your mail reader does not understand
> this format, some or all of this message may not be legible.
> Content-Type: text/plain;
> I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but I need some information -
> I was just in a meeting with my boss who made this very innocent comment
> me and my co-worker:
> "It must be very frustrating to be in a profession where no one reads what
> you produce."
> I have searched the archives and not found the type of info that I'm
> for. Can anyone tell me if they know "for a fact" that user's read the
> documentation (skimming is included as reading). By this I mean have you
> done a usability test, have you talked to customers. Does anyone have
> that I can use to back up my belief that user's do read the manuals.
> Suzanne Gerrior
> Raymark Business Systems Inc.
> Content-Type: text/html;
> Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
> <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2//EN">
> <META HTTP-EQUIV=3D"Content-Type" CONTENT=3D"text/html; =
> <META NAME=3D"Generator" CONTENT=3D"MS Exchange Server version =
> <TITLE>No one reads the manuals</TITLE>
> <P><FONT SIZE=3D2>I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but I need =
> some information - fast!</FONT>
> <P><FONT SIZE=3D2>I was just in a meeting with my boss who made this =
> very innocent comment to me and my co-worker:</FONT>
> <P><FONT SIZE=3D2>"It must be very frustrating to be in a =
> profession where no one reads what you produce."</FONT>
> <P><FONT SIZE=3D2>I have searched the archives and not found the type =
> of info that I'm looking for. Can anyone tell me if they know "for =
> a fact" that user's read the documentation (skimming is included =
> as reading). By this I mean have you done a usability test, have you =
> talked to customers. Does anyone have facts that I can use to back up =
> my belief that user's do read the manuals.</FONT></P>
> <P><FONT SIZE=3D2>Thanks</FONT>
> <P><FONT SIZE=3D2>Suzanne Gerrior</FONT>
> <BR><FONT SIZE=3D2>Raymark Business Systems Inc.</FONT>
> From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=