In order to publish an effective help documentation, you must gather as much information as you can about your audience. For most technical writers, audience analysis is the first, and perhaps the foundation step, in developing documentation for an end-user while following a documentation development life cycle (DDLC).
What is Audience Analysis?
In few words, audience analysis is to know more about your end-users.
Audience Analysis is the task to identify your target audience to make sure that the information provided in the end-user documentation is suitable for satisfying their information requirements.
Why should you conduct Audience Analysis?
Your audience consists of different people. Each person may have different needs and expectations. In order to satisfy the needs of majority of your audience, you must conduct an analysis to identify their varied requirement of information and develop your documentation for the common base.
Type of Audience
The Old school of thought categorized end-users into two broad groups: Beginners and Experts. Beginners know nothing about the product or the process you are going to write about and Experts know everything, inside-out, about the product.
William Horton in his book “Designing and Writing Online Documentation” further developed the idea and suggested five categories of end-users: Novoice, Occasional Users, Transfer Users, Experts, and Rote Users.
Using the word “AUDIENCE” as an acronym, we can define few questions that can shed light on our hidden audience:
Analysis– Analysis of the product features which are important from a user’s viewpoint. Not all features are important for users. As Pareto’s 80-20 rule suggests, 80% of the users use only 20% features of the product.
Understanding– What is the audience’s knowledge of the subject? Are they Novoice, Occasional Users, Transfer Users, Experts, or Rote Users of the product?
Demographics– What is their age, gender, and education background? Are they RF scientists or fresh college graduates?
Interest– Why are they reading your document? Do they want to learn everything about the product or are they interested in learning only about a small functionality of the product?
Environment– Where will this document be viewed? Is it on the workshop floor (paper manual) or is it in a lab with electronic display (Online-help)?
Needs– What are the audience’s needs associated with your document topic? Do they want context sensitive help or a video tutorial about a complex operation of the product? Do they need document in their local language (Japanese, Chinese or German)?
Customization– Does the font size, type needs adjustment because of the small electronic display of the product? Do customer want paper manual in addition to the digital copy?
Expectations– What does the audience expect to learn from your document? Do they expect detailed information about the product or do they only want to get step-by-step instruction to perform a task?
I am interested to know more about the methods and tools you use to conduct audience analysis. Leave a comment and let me know.
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