Re: Value added

Subject: Re: Value added
From: Todd Sieling <tsieling -at- DIRECT -dot- CA>
Date: Sat, 6 Feb 1999 10:35:06 -0800

Interesting points, to which I add my own...
There seems to be a trend in software where the scope of intended users
impacts the quality/format of documentation. Software targeted towards a
wider and therefore more generic audience seems to recieve lighter
documentation, or at least documentation that is almost exclusively online.
Cost considerations apparently dominate in these cases.

What Sean writes below about the included free rag and the for-sale-only
Resource Kit to follow seems to apply especially to Microsoft. How many
Excel books are there, both published from within and outside of Redmond?
Tons! Less than complete documentation seems to open a market in the generic
mass of users for more precisely targeted docs that address more specific
problems and shows how to achieve solutions with a particular piece of
software/software suite. This seems to hold an appealing potential for me,
except that Joe and Jane user get the short shrift at the start unless they
have factored in the extra $30-60 for the extra documentation.

A second trend that goes hand in hand with the first is the move from
printed to online documentation, where docs are:
1) all online
2) mostly online with a printed getting started booklet/card
3) both printed and online

Different sizes of companies seem to take different tacks, again with cost
being a major factor. The recent release of Robohelp 7 marked a move by Blue
Sky to exclusively online docs, and a card to send in for the printed docs
(free of charge). At first this bothered me a bit, then I realized that with
this method, only those who _want_ the printed versions will respond. A tad
inconvinient, but only inconvinient, not debilitating.

What does this say for tech writers? Only that there is a change in the
medium we are writing for, I think. That there is an apparent decline in
documents that come with software is more of an illusion created by the
absence of the traditional thick book that comes with a lightweight cd and
makes the box feel substantial. There is still lots to be written, maybe
more than ever.

There's 2 cents for you, but it makes me ask myself - is this what readers
want? Is print really dying or is it being euthanized in its weakened state?

Todd Sieling

> Tech writing is overhead unless you sell the books. For example, one
> strategy might be to provide a useless rag with software and
> charge $30 plus
> shipping for a useful book (let's call it a resource kit!). In this case,
> value added can be measured a) in dollar sales of the Resource Kit b) the
> value of the "useless rag" in its ability to cause pain and drive
> people to
> buy the "Resource Kit."
> Also, web sites and user guides can be measured in decreased calls to
> customer support. Also, callers can be asked specific questions
> about their
> frustration with the printed and/or on-line documentation. Such responses
> can be tracked over several releases of a software or hardware
> product. Web
> sites can also be measured by a change in sales activity. For example, if
> you sell a web-site concept to a motorcycle dealer, you might
> guarantee that
> the site will pay for itself in sales within a year (it did, within four
> months on used bikes alone). You can measure such effect by polling
> customers and asking where they learned of the store/information, etc.
> Sometimes, included documentation makes or breaks a sale. For example, for
> small or niche software companies, often prospective customers have a
> checklist of features against which they evaluate a product.
> Often, printed
> documentation is one check box and on-line documentation is another
> (web-based documentation might be a third). The availability or
> lack of such
> documentation might be the difference between a sale and not.
> Just some thoughts.
> Sean
> sean -at- quodata -dot- com
> >>>From: Ben Kovitz [mailto:apteryx -at- CHISP -dot- NET]
> >>>Subject: Re: Value added
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>Kersten Richter wrote:
> >>>
> >>>>Hello, I'm currently learning about the value added by
> >>>technical documents
> >>>>in one of my classes. My professor told us that this value
> >>>should always be
> >>>>measurable. My question is--how do you measure the value added by a
> >>>>technical document which is being used as a "show piece"?
> >>>For example, a
> >>>>web page designed to show off? How do you measure the
> >>>client satisfaction?
> >>>
> ==================================================================
> =========

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