Research, Analysis, Expectations and Prioritization – What You Should Do Before You Start Writing
Have you found yourself questioning whether the documentation you’re creating is what your end users really need? Are you about to write documentation but are wondering where to start?
In this blog post, let’s explore why it is important for you as an information architect, to describe documentation deliverables and define the delivery channels before you start writing user assistance.
Good information architecture is ideally a result of research into your target audience and their expectations. Such research helps you create personas (as we discussed in our previous blog post) and helps you understand whom you’re writing for. It’s possible that when defining personas, you realize that different customer personas want different things. And this analysis serves as a basis for you to create a wish list of deliverables wanted by your customers or end users.
Working through this wish list and defining what it is that you CAN deliver is an important responsibility that sets the foundation of solid documentation for your product. The wish list could be as simple as a list of guides such as a user guide, installation guide, administration guide, API documentation, integration guide, etc. The next logical question you might have is about where to start. Prioritizing the deliverables is what will give you the answer. But to prioritize, all other factors such as resources, timelines, schedules, interests of customers, technology, etc. come into play. This might be a tricky point where you may question whether something is possible or not. Discussing with your stakeholders (product owners, authors, documentation leads, etc.) will help in making the right decisions. The point is that having a huge list is not a problem – when you do what is more important.
Now, let’s talk about how you’re going to deliver information to your customers. Once you decide on the deliverables from the wish list, you focus on channels and the formats in which the deliverables need to be delivered. An example could be if your customers prefer YouTube as a channel, then the video format is predefined for you. It doesn’t make sense to start writing a document in this case. We suggest that you never assume the preferred channels without discussing with your customers or end users. This will ensure that your customers know what to expect.
Another point to remember is that different people expect different channels. Nowadays our analysis shows that people above 50 tend to prefer written content while people between 30 and 50 tend to prefer interactive formats and video content, and people below 30 tend to prefer videos and content in social media channels. Did you know that there’s also a whole lot of people who don’t even want to be on social media?! This understanding of audience is very interesting from an information architect’s perspective.
Expectations and consumption patterns will always keep changing. There will be new channels, mixed channels, and extinct channels all the time. This information impacts your delivery strategy in the end. Delivery channels will influence our work as information architects and writers. Embracing these changes and having a flexible mindset will keep you afloat to make the right decisions. Not knowing what your customers want will lead to ineffective user assistance and ultimately lower your customers’ trust in you. Adapting to changes and offering the right user assistance to your customers is the only way forward.
To conclude, the prioritization of deliverables and delivery channels will help you to start creating the right documentation, user assistance and finally deliver real value to your customers.
Did this blog post help you in understanding what you should consider before you start writing documentation? Does it make you want to prioritize your documentation deliverables? Tell us what you think about it using the comments. Do share this blog post with a friend who might benefit from it.