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A Passion to Serve Your Customers

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  1. A Passion to Serve Your Customers Melanie Allen GBU Technical Publications

  2. What makes it possible to develop excellent Help Systems? Autodesk's answer: A passion to serve your customers The focus on your customer drives you to find out what their needs are. The passion drives you to find the best solutions to those needs.

  3. To Serve Your Customers To serve your customers, you need four basic elements: • A knowledge of who your customers are, their needs, tasks, and learning styles • A knowledge of how best to serve these needs • An environment that supports you in discovering and serving these needs • Patience to take incremental steps

  4. Part 1: Finding Out About Your Customers

  5. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list.

  6. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews

  7. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews • Talk to your sales force; have them talk about 2 or 3 clients in particular

  8. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews • Talk to your sales force; have them talk about 2 or 3 clients in particular • Bribe the designers to take you on customer visits to local clients

  9. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews • Talk to your sales force; have them talk about 2 or 3 clients in particular • Bribe the designers to take you on customer visits to local clients • Ask a client to do a NetMeeting where they show you how they use your product in their work

  10. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews • Talk to your sales force; have them talk about 2 or 3 clients in particular • Bribe the designers to take you on customer visits to local clients • Ask a client to do a NetMeeting where they show you how they use your product in their work • Join the organizations your clients join; go to some of their meetings

  11. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews • Talk to your sales force; have them talk about 2 or 3 clients in particular • Bribe the designers to take you on customer visits to local clients • Ask a client to do a NetMeeting where they show you how they use your product in their work • Join the organizations your clients join; go to some of their meetings • Subscribe to journals your clients subscribe to

  12. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews • Talk to your sales force; have them talk about 2 or 3 clients in particular • Bribe the designers to take you on customer visits to local clients • Ask a client to do a NetMeeting where they show you how they use your product in their work • Join the organizations your clients join; go to some of their meetings • Subscribe to journals your clients subscribe to • Join discussion groups to see what types of questions your clients are asking

  13. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews • Talk to your sales force; have them talk about 2 or 3 clients in particular • Bribe the designers to take you on customer visits to local clients • Ask a client to do a NetMeeting where they show you how they use your product in their work • Join the organizations your clients join; go to some of their meetings • Subscribe to journals your clients subscribe to • Join discussion groups to see what types of questions your clients are asking • Use your software to do the type of things a client would do (not a small project; a real project)

  14. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews • Talk to your sales force; have them talk about 2 or 3 clients in particular • Bribe the designers to take you on customer visits to local clients • Ask a client to do a NetMeeting where they show you how they use your product in their work • Join the organizations your clients join; go to some of their meetings • Subscribe to journals your clients subscribe to • Join discussion groups to see what types of questions your clients are asking • Use your software to do the type of things a client would do (not a small project; a real project) • Look at conferences that your clients go to—what are the topics

  15. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Some inexpensive ways to find out about your customers: • Do a survey: Survey Monkey is free! You can post the survey on a discussion board or the company website or email it to a user list. • Do phone interviews • Talk to your sales force; have them talk about 2 or 3 clients in particular • Bribe the designers to take you on customer visits to local clients • Ask a client to do a NetMeeting where they show you how they use your product in their work • Join the organizations your clients join; go to some of their meetings • Subscribe to journals your clients subscribe to • Join discussion groups to see what types of questions your clients are asking • Use your software to do the type of things a client would do (not a small project; a real project) • Look at conferences that your clients go to—what are the topics • Ask tech support about the main customer questions and requests

  16. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers More-expensive ways to find out about your customers: • Get time in a usability lab • Participate in other usability testing • Go to a convention • Fly to visit remote clients • Volunteer to help train users • I’m sure there are other ideas that you have

  17. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Use this info: • Develop personas. • Identify your main customer or customer categories • Find out their workflows: • Use surveys to find out the main tasks user perform with your software • Confirm the list of tasks with your internal experts • Find out their learning styles: • Which types of customers use the tutorials • Which types of customers use animations • Who is on the discussion board • Here’s a new one we’re investigating: how do under-30s expect to learn a new program

  18. Part 1: Finding Out about Your Customers Remember the Passion: • I’m not happy unless I’m doing this • I don’t ever want to “just do the User’s Guide” • I know Tech Writers tend to be introverts, but you need to push yourself to have some contact with your customers

  19. Part 2: Finding the Best Way to Serve Your Customers’ Needs

  20. Part 2: Find the Best Way to Serve Your Customer’s Needs Keeping Up with the Latest Methods – Research: there’s a lot out there You are delivering information—read the research on the best ways to present information • How do users search • How do users navigate • What do they look for on a page when they’re searching for information • Where do their eyes go on a page • How do they like information organized • What are the best tools for creating animations

  21. Part 2: Find the Best Way to Serve Your Customer’s Needs Some good research sites: • Jared Spool’s User Interface Engineering (http://www.uie.com/) • Jacob Nielsen’s website (http://www.useit.com/) • The Interaction Designer’s Coffee Break (http://www.guuui.com) • SIG CHI (http://sigchi.org/) • Pattern Language (http://www.patternlanguage.com) • WritersUA (http://www.writersua.com) • The Usability Professionals' Association (http://www.upassoc.org/) • Signal vs. Noise (http://www.37signals.com/svn/) • And of course • STC (http://www.stc.org/)

  22. Part 2: Find the Best Way to Serve Your Customer’s Needs Keep clear on the consumer of your document and their status • When does a user look at the Help? When they are stuck. This is not something they read in their spare time. Assume you are writing for someone who is trying to meet a deadline and is stuck and is slightly pissed off at you. • Do NOT explain the history of the feature • Do not explain that the UI is complicated because the designers refused to listen to your great advice on how to design this screen • Be aware of where they are likely to get stuck and tell them how to get going again. • However, if you’re writing the tutorial, then you are writing for someone who has set aside 15 minutes to learn a new feature. Show them how to use your product to complete their tasks.

  23. Part 3: Creating a Supportive Environment

  24. Part 3: Creating a Supportive Environment What makes it possible for you to do your best work: • A supportive SWD team • A management team that recognizes the value of long term employment and works to keep you happy (not work you to death for a single release) • A manager who respects you and wants you to grow and be happy • A place for your own initiatives (summer projects) • Tech Pubs Task Forces of people working on similar projects

  25. Part 3: Creating a Supportive Environment How can you help create this environment: • A project to reduce Tech Support calls • Surveys that show users like the docs • An assessment of the documentation your competition delivers • Showing that you are working to meet team goals (Goals and Strategy) • Presentations to the larger team about what you’re doing • Finding a balance between helping the team and preserving Tech Pubs • Frontloading (summer projects)

  26. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps

  27. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps This doesn’t happen all at once • When I first did the workflow guide, I made up the workflows based on what I thought. For that first release, I had 10 workflows that I made up and that I figured out the steps for.

  28. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps Workflows: Release 1

  29. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps This doesn’t happen all at once • When I first did the workflow guide, I made up the workflows based on what I thought. For that first release, I had 10 workflows that I made up and that I figured out the steps for. • For the next release, I checked the workflows with the Technical Marketing Manager and added 10 more workflows that he recommended. We also moved from HTML into a Frame-based content management system, which didn’t support side-by-side graphics and text.

  30. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps Workflows: Release 2

  31. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps This doesn’t happen all at once • When I first did the workflow guide, I made up the workflows based on what I thought. For that first release, I had 10 workflows that I made up and that I figured out the steps for. • For the next release, I checked the workflows with the Technical Marketing Manager and added 10 more workflows that he recommended. • For the next release, I removed the graphics, since they just got in the user’s way.

  32. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps Workflows: Release 3

  33. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps This doesn’t happen all at once • When I first did the workflow guide, I made up the workflows based on what I thought. For that first release, I had 10 workflows that I made up and that I figured out the steps for. • For the next release, I checked the workflows with the Technical Marketing Manager and added 10 more workflows that he recommended. • For the next release, I removed the graphics, since they just got in the user’s way. • For the next release, I worked with a Task Force on the design of the workflows.

  34. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps Workflows: Release 4

  35. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps This doesn’t happen all at once • When I first did the workflow guide, I made up the workflows based on what I thought. For that first release, I had 10 workflows that I made up and that I figured out the steps for. • For the next release, I checked the workflows with the Technical Marketing Manager and added 10 more workflows that he recommended. • For the next release, I removed the graphics, since they just got in the user’s way. • For the next release, I worked with a Task Force on the design of the workflows. • The next release didn’t look any different to the users, but we did a huge amount of work to make the workflows easier for the writers to product. We also did some usability on how the customers interacted with the UI of the Workflow Guide.

  36. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps Workflows: Release 5

  37. Part 4: The Power of Incremental Steps This doesn’t happen all at once • When I first did the workflow guide, I made up the workflows based on what I thought. For that first release, I had 10 workflows that I made up and that I figured out the steps for. • For the next release, I checked the workflows with the Technical Marketing Manager and added 10 more workflows that he recommended. • For the next release, I removed the graphics, since they just got in the user’s way. • For the next release, I worked with a Task Force on the design of the workflows. • The next release didn’t look any different to the users, but we did a huge amount of work to make the workflows easier for the writers to product. We also did some usability on how the customers interacted with the UI of the Workflow Guide. • I’m just getting around to doing the needs analysis of which types of customers use which types of workflows and have which type of learning styles. This will help us decide what workflows to cover in the tutorials and which to cover in our animations.

  38. To Create Great Help Remember the four elements: • Find out about your customers • Research how best to serve them • Work on creating a supportive environment • Be patient • It doesn’t hurt to be a little crazy passionate