User Centred Documentation

I bring an excerpt of this article to you courtesy of Tom Johnson, as I think it brings to you opinions from other technical writers around the world to help expose new trends and also supports my own documentation framework approach. You may view the original article here.

Origins of user-centred documentation

User-centred documentation stems from user-centred design. With user-centred design, designers usually study their users in depth as they design products. Designers may do any of the following to get a better understanding of users:

  • Observe users in their own environment
  • Do task analysis to define the steps users take
  • Storyboard user workflows and goals
  • Do A/B testing with prototypes
  • Create personas that represent typical users
  • Gather feedback in usability labs, and more

The goal of user-centred design is to create a product that users love. Continue reading “User Centred Documentation”

How out-of-date documentation can cost you

As usual, I bring this article to you courtesy of JACQUIE SAMUELS, as I think it adds relevance to what I am setting out to achieve with my documentation framework. You may view the original article here.

Documentation is (sadly but understandably) often the last push in the great effort to get a product out the door and into the hands of your customers. Because it’s the last thing on a long list of release requirements, it sometimes gets downsized in effort or time or neglected completely. At the heart of the matter, companies feel like shirking on their documentation deliverables is a possible solution to time and budget crunches. They feel this way because they consider documentation as an add-on to the product, an extra bit of service provided to customers but not an essential component of the product itself.

Guess what: That’s not how customers see it.

Continue reading “How out-of-date documentation can cost you”

16 Reasons Why Your Users Do Not Read User Documentation

I bring this article to you courtesy of Dennis Crane, as I think it adds relevance to what I am setting out to achieve with my documentation framework. You may view the original article here.


Nobody reads help files!

Are you sure?

In the ten years that we’ve been developing Dr.Explain, a leading-edge tool for creating help files, we saw hundreds of our customers’ projects. Our technical support team mostly receives user documentation for software products with requests to help implement some tricks. When talking with our customers, we ask them all kinds of questions about their projects, business areas, products, and audiences.
Based on that experience, we can draw a lot of conclusions, including this one: Users do read user documentation. In many cases, users frequently consult with such documentation. In some projects, it is a vital component of the product or services.

However, sometimes people do not use user documentation. In most cases, the reasons are as follows.

Continue reading “16 Reasons Why Your Users Do Not Read User Documentation”

The changing nature of content

I bring this article to you courtesy of Ellis Pratt, as I think it adds relevance to what I am setting out to achieve with my documentation framework.

Technology has changed enormously over the last 70 years. But have technical communication standards kept up sufficiently to reflect these changes? It appears that some of the most successful software companies are breaking generally accepted best practice in technical writing – a trend that clearly should get us thinking.

If you were going back in time twenty or twenty five years and found yourself in a classroom learning about technical writing, you’d probably find it was almost identical to classes on this subject offered today. Technical communicators tend to assume that technical communication best practices, which have been taught for the past 25 years, and even further back in time, are still appropriate today.

Continue reading “The changing nature of content”

Ten things Clients should know about Technical Writing

As you might expect, technical writing is not just about writing. Certainly writing is a core skill, but depending on the job, the industry, and the purpose of the writing, a technical writer may wear many hats. Often tech writers’ responsibilities touch on editing, graphics, photography, formatting, marketing, training, designing, and document management/control, just to name a few. Continue reading “Ten things Clients should know about Technical Writing”

Which Skill Sets are Important?

Like any profession, becoming a technical writer requires a mastery of a certain set of skills. This skill set used to involve primarily writing and illustration skills, as large manuals for print publication were the standard in the profession. The worlds of communications and technology have evolved dramatically in the latter part of the 20th century and the early part of this century. How has that evolution affected the skill set required for a technical writer?

Continue reading “Which Skill Sets are Important?”

Painful truths of not using a Technical Writer

Some business managers fail to recognize the impact on profitability of good technical documentation and other support literature, or the lack thereof.

You might hear them say—as I have—“It’s not really a priority at the moment” or “We may consider it later” or even “It cost too much, we’ll have to do without it”.  And yet, with your eyes and ears open, you will learn that:

  • Many industrial accidents happen because of inadequate procedural documentation or training.
  • Many high-tech products fail in the marketplace because customers don’t receive the information they need to use them effectively.
  • Many investments in costly new business systems fail to achieve results because structured training and user assistance materials are not part of the plan.

Continue reading “Painful truths of not using a Technical Writer”

What is Rapid e-Learning?

There are plenty of definitions regarding Rapid e-Learning. A lot of them are variations of strange theories. But, I have only one definition:

“Rapid e-Learning is the development of learning courseware within a short timeline, which is achieved using basic templates which form a static framework and contains the learning content.”

This implies that not much time is spent on creating complex and pretty animations and interactions. There is debate aplenty in e-learning circles and many people may consider e-learning not valid unless it has a high level of interactivity, pulsing text and images and other bells and whistles, such as nonsensical games.  Anything less may be considered as boring click-and-read material. All this just adds extra time (lots of it) and extra expense.

It is easy to disguise poor instructional design with slick effects and animations.  However, a lot of this stuff  is neither necessary or effective and I believe all these repetitive flying, flashing texts and images can trigger extreme irritation.