Users' documentation preferences (2)

At a user group meeting in 2008, TechScribe researched engineers' experiences of the software documentation that they receive. TechScribe used a questionnaire to ask the engineers about their job roles, their documentation preferences, and their experiences of a user guide.

This summary shows some of the results from the first two sections of the survey. We show the questions that we asked, but not the answer options, because the results show the answer options. (The text on the charts is simplified. The questionnaire contained more detail to help engineers to respond accurately.)

We received 16 replies from 16 engineers.

Preferred delivery format

Question: what delivery format do you prefer, if any?

Printed: 2; on-screen: 6; no preference: 8

More engineers prefer on-screen documentation than printed documentation. However, most engineers have no preference. Possibly, what is most important to the engineers is that the content answers their questions.

Method of finding information

Question: when you need to find information in a book about performing a task, which of these do you use? Tick all that apply.

Look at contents page: 11; look at index: 8; scan the book: 8; ask a colleague: 1; other: 4

Importance of background information

Question: how important is background information about how the product works?

Not important: 0; important: 16

Background information about software is important to all the engineers. Therefore, good documentation includes concepts of operation, explanations of workflows, and explanations of how the software is related to business procedures. Good design makes sure that people who are not interested can see that the information is an option for the people who are interested.

Type of documentation

Question: which of these types of documentation do you prefer?

'how to' guide: 1; reference material: 0; both equally useful: 15

Most engineers think that reference manuals and 'how to' guides are equally useful.

Method of explanations

Question: do you prefer explanations using visuals, descriptions or both?

Visuals: 0; descriptions: 0; visuals and descriptions: 16;

Although people learn in different ways, most engineers prefer explanations that mix both words and images.

See also

Users' documentation preferences (1)

Printed and online documentation trade-offs

Relative costs of printed and online documentation

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