If you’re too young to remember printed, perfect-bound user manual sets that came along with a stack of 3.5-inch diskettes when you got the latest version of the coolest thick-client software ever, take it from me, you’ve missed out. Well, it’s actually more likely that you’re a professional communicator standing on the shoulders of those who labored long in dark corners to help users figure out how to make these tools work. To read the comments in Twitterverse, any one of a dozen or two blogs, and the summaries from conferences scattered across the globe, you might think that only strategized, optimized, digital content should ever be produced to” improve the user experience.” A couple of recent threads in the TechWhirl community forums/email discussion list fueled our curiousity (and suspicions) about what kind of user support is really being produced by companies today, leading to the latest poll question.
Whether you’re looking for info on a 2014 version of the 1980’s quick reference card, or ammunition to bolster an argument about placement of revision information, we think there’s a good chance that you haven’t gone completely digital, omnichannel, and responsive in building out your technical content, no matter how much you’d like to. Based on the number of downloads of some of our recent templates, we think a fair smattering of technical communicators still have a need for user guides and FAQs…in some form or another.
If you do good technical communications planning around your product releases (and we know you do), how has that planning changed with the advent of so many output options and new channels? Can you still plan for the same types of user support, but manage the production to fit today’s digital requirements? When we look at the purpose of the more traditional forms of documentation, we still see a need for some sort of content to address specific types of needs. So we’d love to hear your thoughts around whether, for example, the old-fashioned system administrator guide still has a place. And if not, what do you produce to meet the needs of a particular segment of your audience? Not only should it generate some terrific discussion from folks across the spectrum, it might very well give us a good list for future templates. And we’d be happy to provide those to the community later this year.