By Bob Widman, customer support and documentation specialist, Oasys Design Systems
edadesignline.com (May 03, 2010)
As a customer, how many times have you purchased a product and become frustrated because of the lack of good product documentation? You could be reading something simple like an Installation Guide for a household product or a complex User Guide that explains how to verify a design using particular software. Does it ever feel like the document was written by someone from another world? Or worse yet, maybe there was no documentation at all!
Documentation comes in many forms, such as release notes, installation guides, FAQs, command and GUI reference manuals, user guides, tutorials, and training guides.
This article will cover the importance of good product documentation, what some of the hurdles are in creating it, and provide a few suggestions for producing quality documentation.
Importance of good documentation
The reason that the customer bought your product was to make their life easier. If, while using the documentation, it is difficult to figure out how the product works or to get questions answered, typically one or more of the following will happen: He or she will quit using it, tell others not to buy it, or contact your customer support. None are good options since they will either reduce sales or increase costs because of the need for extra support, not to mention tarnishing a company's image. In the long term, fixing the problem with support is most expensive, compared to fixing it with documentation (less expensive), or with software quality (least expensive).
There are several challenges in creating effective documentation. Let's look at few key issues.
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