Back in the old days, when I was a student in mass communications, I recall a professor discussing the fact that everyone has an opinion about advertising. We’re all exposed to thousands of commercial messages in any given day, across every possible medium, and with all that exposure we’re bound to have an opinion or two about those messages–at least the ones that cut through the clutter. Given the prevalence of assumptions about how customers don’t read the documentation, it’s pretty likely that everyone has an opinion about technical communication content as well. If you haven’t already checked it out, head over to Sharon Burton’s website to find out more about her recent surveys on customers and documentation, and listen to her webinar on the eye-opening results.
It may be that opinions on the helpfulness of technical communication content have at least something to do with the ways in which we consume it. And these days, technical communicators are being tasked with producing so much more than perfect-bound user manuals (indeed the number of folks who produce commercially printed documentation seems to be shrinking daily). How we consume content could be impacted by short-attention-span-itis and the need for instant gratification, in addition to the traditional ideas of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles.
This week’s poll asks about your preferences for consuming technical communication content. If we had a really fancy poll mechanism, we’d break it out demographically, but our non-scientific polls are designed to take a snapshot and spark discussion. We’re curious when you consume technical communication content, how you prefer to do it. Are you a traditionalist, who enjoys holding a book and turning pages? Would you prefer an all-video, all the time approach to get information relevant to you? Or are you someone who prefers eBooks or easily found web pages to skim and and highlight? We’d also love to hear your thoughts on how your own preferences might impact the types of technical communication you produce and the channel(s) by which you deliver it. It’s an endlessly fascinating conversation, and we invite you to be a part of it. Feel free to post a comment here, or start a new thread on the TechWhirl email discussion list.