Published on March 3rd, 2007 | by Rahel Bailie0
Showing that users do RTFM
An interesting blog post about users who not only read the user manuals, but pay dearly to get their hands on them, and attribute their superior product successes to having read them. Why? The short answer is because the companies were willing to invest in the quality of the materials. Instead of the “let’s pick the cheapest writer that claims to be able to create a manual in the least amount of time” to create content of average quality, it is clear that these companies have made the effort to get writers with a certain knowledge of communication or learning theory, and the end product has reflected the needs of the user and the brand. A little bit of instruction, a little of gaming, a little bit of motivation, some good navigations tools, and packaged in a strong visual (let’s face it, the days of a Word doc with Times Roman text is so over) that it draws users in.
This echoes my sentiments all along – so why don’t we see more of this in the technical communication world? Are tech writers so lacking in imagination that we can’t think these things up? Possibly, but I suspect that’s a minority of writers. Are tech writers so used to being shouted down by the budget-holders who don’t see the value in engaging documentation that they’ve given up? I think we’re getting closer. Is the company culture one that leaves tech writing right till the end, when the writers barely have time to throw together some form of document just-short-of-fiction to include with the product so that it gets out the door at the same time as the product? I suspect we’re getting closer to the reality of many writers’ lives. (For those writers’ tsk-tsking the notion, you don’t know how lucky you are!)
Hoorah for Kathy Sierra (“chief poohbah” of Head First books) for spelling this out in such a clear way.