Technical writing can be improved so much by interacting with those who are actually using your instructions.
- Do your customers understand the directions?
- Do they still have questions?
- Are you approaching their question the way they would be looking for an answer?
- Can you explain better?
- Where do they get stuck?
- What are the most common questions despite the support page that exists?
- Will improving the support page fix the issue or is it indicative of a deeper problem?
Writing support articles and tutorials is incredibly rewarding,… when you get feedback. Here are some ideas for incorporating feedback into your workflow:
- For online documents, add a yes/no survey at the bottom of your page asking if this helped answer their question. When they click No, prompt them to write what other information might have helped. You’ll gain insight into documents that don’t exist but should, search patterns, and customer confusion.
- Get out and teach. If you write beginner articles, go teach some beginning courses. If you write about advanced techniques, do a Google hangout with advanced customers and see what’s still unclear. It doesn’t need to be in a classroom, be creative.
- Try doing some technical support for others. Whenever you encounter a question, keep track of it. If you notice at the end of a day/week that you’re answering the same question over and over, chances are the process needs improved and the documentation is inadequate. Go fix what you can. Even the smallest improvements will help with the number of questions. Check out the incoming email and forum questions to see if you can build a top 10 list of things you need to fix first.
- Build a testing group. Get some friends who have never used your product to try it out while you’re nearby. See where they get stuck. Get a group of active users to be your beta testers. Reward their activity with early feature accessibility and presents. Or, you could even hire a group of testers from Craig’s List. There are a lot of options for making it easier for new customers and keeping power-users happy when you include this kind of testing.
Once you know what needs explained more thoroughly, you can use customer feedback during your writing and editing process.