Who is my audience?
Technical Writing is what I like to do. Many people do not understand what I do, but I found this really neat image describing it.
What does this image have to do with this weeks reading? Not much I just wanted to show this neat graphic.
This week the topic was audience. Who is our audience and how to we make sure that we are writing to this audience. I started my job at Sansio in 2002. In 2004 I started working in our Solution Center (Call Center), by 2005 I was working with the in house trainer and maintaining the training powerpoint. Throughout my use of the powerpoint and through my stint as Implementation Coordinator, this one powerpoint turned into 3 with an average of 300 slides a piece.In addition, the training manager had me create checklists to support the learning. The maintenance of these materials was very time consuming, but still was not the main portion of my job. When I was promoted to QA Specialist in 2007 training was changed to be online training and the Business Analysts who took over training no longer used the PowerPoint. At that time I no longer did technical writing. It wasn’t until I took my Technical Writing Practiuum in 2010 that I started writing. My supervisor found that I was good at it and I have been creating/updating User Guide Pages, creating Release Notes and updating other user materials.
Its always important to understand our audience. I have special knowledge of our audience because of my experience with our Solution Center and as Implementation Coordinator. I spent years talking to customers during and after their initial training of HomeSolutions. The image below gives a nice description of what I should be thinking about what I start my writing.
Analysis – HomeSolutions Users
Understanding – When I write, I assume the person has a basic knowledge of HomeSolutions and the terms that we use.
Demographics – Most HomeSolutions users are women around 40 and most do not have a formal degree. There is the occasional user who is a nurse with an advanced degree.
Interest – They are reading the document because they want to know how to use a specific piece of the product.
Environment – The document will be viewed in the users office, most likely online within the application.
Needs – They need to know how to use a piece of the application
Customization – Needs may be to provide an overall description of the page/features that they will be accessing.
Expectations – The ability to use the piece/feature in the future without having to reference the educational resource again.
When it comes to the other product I write for, RevNet, I take a little different approach. The RevNet product is new to everyone. The product has only been around for a little over a year, so everyone who uses this product is brand new. I spend more time on this product line documenting definitions of words and places within the application.
I sometimes worry that I am not writing to the exact needs of the audience. We do not get a lot of feedback on our writing, even by internal customers, and I have not been able to find the time to make sure I get usability testing done to make sure. One thing that would probably help would be creating a persona. A Persona is a very detailed description, including name, age and picture, of a person who will be using the resource being created. In Spilka’s book, Chapter 8 Addressing Audiences in a Digital Age by Ann M Blakeslee they also describe using the persona with the development staff so that they have a better understanding of who they are developing for. One reason I may not do a persona is that I feel I have a very good understanding of our audience because of my experience with our customers in the Solution Center.
How important are personas to writing for an audience? Do I really need to do them, since I have first hand experience with them in the past?