Complexity causes 50% of product returns

Elke den Ouden, of the Technical University of Eindhoven, has found in her thesis that half of all malfunctioning products returned to stores by consumers are in full working order, but customers can’t figure out how to operate the devices. Product complaints and returns are often caused by poor design, but companies frequently dismiss them as “nuisance calls”.
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The solution? Making the devices easier is one route, but that’s very tricky when more and more features are added to complex devices. The other route is to make it easy to figure out how to use them – by supplying really good user documentation.


I find it interesting that certain words and phrases come popular. I’ve noticed some recently – The elephant in the corner, Tinternet, Bubble 2.0, blook.

Our happy place

We’ve received a nice testimonial from one of our clients today:

“Our Web site was confusing, not easy to find and didn’t define what we offered. What Cherryleaf did was improve the ease of search, define our services and clearly improve the format and layout, using plain English to allow our potential clients understand what true value we can offer. Thanks to Cherryleaf, we now get more hits on our Web site and finally we are getting enquiries… worth every penny.”

Ian Plumbley, CEO, Kazco

Is this a golden age for technical authors?

Is this a golden age for permanent technical authors and technical writers? It may well be, even if it doesn’t feel it today.

We are probably at the point in the UK where the jobs market is *just* to the advantage of job-seekers, though salary rates have not been affected. Most likely, we’re also at a tipping point for the adoption of new tools and technologies, such as DITA XML, Web 2.0, AuthorIT and Flare. Significantly, these are technologies that can be adopted across the enterprise.

Then there’s the possibilities of an economic downturn in 2007/8 and more off-shoring of work in the future. If, in two years time, you’re doing the same things in the same way as today then you may well find you have been passed by.

So is this a golden age? We may be in a better place to tell in about two years’ time. What do you think?

Flare, Training and new technologies

We aim to reflect the trends in new technologies and tools in the training courses that we offer. We recently introduced a training course on DITA Darwin Information Typing Architecture, and today we’ve announced a training course for Madcap Software’s Flare. Flare is a new Help authoring tool from the former developers of RoboHelp.

We’ll also be offering consultancy for RoboHelp users who want to migrate their RoboHelp project to MadCap Flare, and consultancy for those in migrating to DITA.