Cherryleaf Technical Author survey 2011 – in words

Last month, we conducted an online survey that 226 Technical Authors completed. We also conducted some in depth interviews with UK Documentation Managers to get a better insight into the responses. Below is some feedback we received.

Why user guides are not published on Web sites

The main reasons we heard why user documentation was not published on Web sites (i.e. searchable on Google) were:

  • The application was bespoke and/or specific to a single customer.
  • The Support Department felt it would lead to fewer customers signing up for a Support contract.
  • Competitors might read the content.

Senior management often had a traditional view of what a user guide should look like

Reluctance and resistance to innovative approaches to User Assistance came more from senior management and other departments (i.e. Support and Marketing) than from the Technical Publications department itself.

The exceptions came from

  • Successful organisations where technical documentation was a negligible cost to the overall business. The Technical Publications department had freedom to effectively do what they liked.
  • Organisations where they saw that many users were reading and downloading the user documentation. This was where the content was online and the number of readers could be quantified through Web analytics.

There was little desire for User Generated Content (but there was for getting engineers to contribute content)

In general, they felt not enough users would contribute and there could be legal risks.

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