We’ll look at how to plan a user documentation project when you’re working for a startup technology company. Working in this environment gives you the opportunity to work “from a clean sheet,” but it also has its own challenges of working in a dynamic and rapidly changing environment.
We’ll look at the issues around planning user documentation and the additional considerations when you are a startup. Your budget may be limited and the product or service in development may be constantly changing, so how should you work in this situation? What should you be developing, and what is the value of user documentation for a startup?
We will cover:
What is different about working for a startup
Lean startup strategies
The value of user documentation for a startup and why should you provide it
Cherryleaf’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Ellis Pratt will moderating the panel discussion “Assisting the Millennial User – Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead“, which is part of the free Adobe Day at the UAEurope Conference 2013. On the panel will be Chris Despopoulos, Craig Clark, Dave Gash, David Farbey, Matthew Ellison, Paula Stern and Willam van Weelden. This free event will be held Wednesday, 12th June, 12:00pm to 5:00pm
Some of us will be at the MadWorld conference next week, which is being held in San Diego. Cherryleaf’s Sales and Marketing Director, Ellis Pratt, will be speaking on both days of the conference. If you’re going to the conference or will be close by, then you’re welcome to come and say hello. Email us to find out our precise schedule and whereabouts.
Danielle M. Villegas has just pointed us towards a five minute lightning talk by Rick Lippencott on the future of technical communication, and its value. Rick covers in five minutes a great deal of the content I covered in my 45 minute presentation at the same conference – it’s worth watching.
He summarises the value of Technical Authors in three simple words :”We explain things”.
Rick added some notes to the description on YouTube:
The clay tablet “first example of tech documentation” is about ten thousand years old, not two thousand.
The odd photo at about the 4:50 mark (where I say any of us could have explained it better) was a hotel room layout map posted at the elevators. It gave room locations based on compass points, but there was no way for the reader to know which way was actually north. It was completely useless.
“All of this has happened before, and it will happen again” was originally from Peter Pan.
A lightning talk is a presentation format in which 20 slides are shown for 15 seconds each (giving each presenter five minutes in total). The format is used to keep presentations concise and fast-paced, and to allow the time for lots of speakers to participate in the event.
It’s very similar to “Pecha Kucha nights”, however those give speakers the luxury of an extra five seconds per slide.
The STC Summit conference has over 80 education sessions on technical communication, organised in seven tracks. It will be held between the 6th-8th May. There is also an exposition, with more than 50 companies represented. Ticket prices normally cost between $900-$1,400, depending on when you book (although students willing to help out can get in for a couple of hundred dollars).
We’ve just been sent the delegate feedback from my presentation at the Technical Communications UK 2012 conference:
Ellis Pratt – What does the iPad 3 mean for Technical Authors?
Brilliant, very thorough, very comparative, very useful, bit fast through slides – can we have a copy of slides please? … Knows his stuff, makes me want to find out more! … Very enlightening content, expertly delivered. Lots of ‘take away’ information. Very engaging and informative … Excellent informative presentation … Excellent session, plenty of food for thought and more research to be done by me! Ellis knows his subject inside out and is a great resource … Excellent! In-depth understanding of this topic … Really learnt a lot from this … This has been a highlight of the conference for me – incredibly well researched presentation and very up to date. Brilliant, thanks Ellis … Interesting and very useful … Very good – stuffed full of useful info. Very informative, clear and thought provoking … Excellent very informative session. Very informative and useful from a clear and competent expert in his field … Always interesting to hear Ellis’ views. He never tries to sell anything and he always seems to be one step ahead of everyone. He’s tech comm’s best futurologist.
This was quite a shock. I was trying to sell!
We’re available to work on new documentation projects, consultancy and training requirements. Contact us to discuss your requirements.
Mozilla’s Janet Swisher had a number of useful tips at Technical Communications UK 2012 on how to encourage user generated and community based content:
People contribute because they want to learn something and for personal growth. You need to recognise this work.
Crowds aren’t smart, communities of peers are.
Create a community about the topic of interest, not solely about your product. For example, create a community on camping, not on your brand or your camping products. Solve common problems, rather than niche ones.
Community based content is where contributors share a common goal. User generated content is often “all about me”.
You can review contributions before they go live on the site, or review them after they have been published. You need to choose the approach that works for you.
Having a forum where customers can express their views can be deeply uncomfortable for organisations. Organisations tend to encourage what Leon Benjamin called a “red zone/green zone mentality”. The green zone is safe and trustworthy and within the organisation. The “red zone” is anything outside of the organisation – and can be seen as risky, dangerous and untrustworthy. Yet the reality is that most people get information from outside the organisation (from the red zone).
Users will express opinions and publish contributions on other sites, if you don’t create your own forum. If you create the community, then you will be more able to control the accuracy, authority and accessibility of and to this information.
Having said that, sometimes you need to publish to areas outside of your control. For example, issuing your manuals via Amazon Kindle might expose you to user reviews. They could say they hate it or that they love it. That public feedback can be daunting, but remember we all have our filters to assess the information.