Getting documentation feedback via customer forums – a story of UX and UA

I spend a few minutes each day trawling our online question-and-answer forum, answering questions when I can, and keeping an eye out for posts directly related to the documentation. This paid dividends yesterday when a customer asked where he can download the offline version of our documentation. After giving him the link, I delved a little deeper into his reasons for preferring the offline to the online version. It’s an enlightening discussion.

Kevin’s primary requirement was the link to the downloadable documentation. His question is therefore titled, Offline Confluence Documentation. I gave him the link. That was easy.

But the forum post also explains why Kevin wants the offline documentation. He mentions the fact that the online documentation was unavailable when he needed it. We did indeed have several problems with the server, now fixed.

It was this bit of Kevin’s post that caught my attention:

(Also the documentation has gotten much harder to use for experienced users because we need to wade through pages of fluff before we get to content found in the old user manuals right on the top level).

He had put that bit in parentheses, almost as if it’s not so relevant. That in itself is a worry for us as technical writers. We don’t want customers feeling that there’s no way of getting the documentation improved or getting their voices heard.

Also very interesting is the fact that Kevin describes himself as an experienced user. He knows the product (Confluence wiki) and he therefore also has an expectation of how the Confluence-based documentation will work. He wanted a quick fix for a problem (how to recover a deleted page) and was frustrated enough to resort to PDF to find it!

So I asked Kevin if he’d be kind enough to give more details about why the documentation has become harder to use.

His response was awesome. He described his troubled workflow in detail, giving us technical writers an excellent insight into how an experienced user is navigating through our documentation. If you’re interested in the details, take a look at this comment and the subsequent discussions.

It’s great when people take the time to respond like this. It shows a high level of commitment to the product and the various types of help that we offer, including the documentation and the forum. It also shows how willing people are to help each other. Thanks so much, Kevin!

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 30 March 2013, in technical writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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