Audience Analysis In Technical Writing: How To Get The Facts Right

The effectiveness of any technical documentation depends on how well the technical writer has tailored its content to appeal to the target audience. But in many cases, tailoring content for the target audience is not the challenge.

The key challenge is how to identify and analyze the audience. So it's not strange when you see technical writers asking “How can you tailor your content to appeal to a specific audience when you don’t even know them?” This is one of the reasons why users don’t read your manuals.

Audience analysis is perhaps the single most important aspect of technical writing. If you do it right, your customer support team will heave a sigh of relief and you can slash your customer support cost.

But what happens when you don’t hit the bull’s eye? You’ll have to spend more on customer support. Perhaps, create a new manual, and you can imagine the dent it can put on your product’s name as a brand, especially when your competitors are doing it right. Now you can avoid such a scenario by simply analyzing your audience.

Why Users Don’t Read Your Manuals and How to Make Them To

You’ve designed a near perfect product or built a great software. And then you hired some of the best technical writers to write a user-friendly help manual to solve usability problems. You want your product users to start enjoying the product from the first minute. The technical writers did a great a job, and your user experience team confirmed that.
But after launching your product or releasing an update, you seem to be spending a lot more on customer support. In many cases, the answers users are looking for are right inside the user manual. So now you’re asking the same question many manufacturers and developers have been asking. Do product users ever read help manuals?

5 Essential Skills You Need To Become A Great Technical Writer

What’s the difference between a great technical writer and a great writer?
Both of them are great writers. But one of them has mastered the key skills required to make almost anyone understand and use almost any product that requires some technical knowledge regardless of their technological know-how.
If you are a technical writer or perhaps you are interested in becoming one, it is important for you to master the required skills too. So to make technical writing easier for you, we’ve compiled 5 of the most important skills every technical writer should master to be a professional.

Print vs. Screen Manual - Which One Do You Need?

Picking the right format to publish your help files can be tricky, especially if you’re creating your first help manual and you want to avoid the biggest mistakes first time help manual authors make. The right format determines if your users have access to your help files exactly how and when they need it.
If you’re using a help authoring tool (and you should because they make it easier to write better help documents in half the time), publishing in multiple formats should be no trouble at all.
The big question we’re answering today is, should you publish a print manual (hard copy), or a screen manual (PDF, CHM, Web based HTML, eBook format...).

How To Write A Great Help Manual

When you write a great help manual you do two things – help customers find and use appropriate solutions easily and slash your business customer support costs significantly.
Even more, customers will be glad to recommend your product, and leaders in your business niche will easily recommend your brand to other experts and their customers. This is why writing a great help manual is one of the best investment any business can make.
But how exactly can you write a great help manual?

The 7 Best Formats to Publish Your Help Manuals

There is only one rule for picking the best format for publishing help manuals: pick the format that makes the manual easily accessible for users when they need it and how they need it.
Interestingly, product users have access to several devices, software and digital content including web browsers, PDF, Microsoft Word and smart devices such as smartphones, tablets, Kindle, iPads, Macs... The list is almost endless. This is why writing a quality help manual may be the best investment your business make.
But with such a long list, what’s the best format for publishing your help manual? Let's review some of them.

Biggest Mistakes First Time Help Manual Authors Make

What’s the worst mistake you can make as a first time help manual author?

A good help manual is user-friendly, and contains clear instructions that users can find and use easily. But if you’re a first time help manual author, creating a good one can be a tough task, especially if it’s your first technical writing project.
Interestingly, every great help manual writer had their first moment too, and made several mistakes on their first attempt. We’ve compiled these mistakes, so you wouldn’t repeat any of them. Thankfully, you can learn from these mistakes and create a top-notch help manual on your first attempt.

Help documentation doesn't have to be boring

Let's face it, help documentation today has a terrible image. Almost everyone you talk to about it has a bad impression of help manuals. There are lots of different reasons for this, some of the most common are:

  • It doesn't answer the questions you have
  • You can't find the answer even though you know it's in there somewhere
  • The manual is hard to navigate
  • The documentation is out of date
  • The documentation doesn't exist yet

Should I use Microsoft Word to create my product's documentation?

Microsoft Word is a great piece of software. It allows users to quickly and easily write anything from a school report to business letter. The biggest advantage which Microsoft Word has is user-familiarity, it is a software which most of us have grown up with using it both at school and in the office. For many people it is still the natural choice when they need to write anything in a business environment. And for most purposes Microsoft Word is ideal, but there are some applications including writing product documentation for which it is not so well suited.
There are many reasons why Microsoft Word is not the right tool to help you write product documentation, here are just five of them.