Users are more important than potential users!

This ought to be obvious.   But as Kathy Sierra mentions it is clear that not all companies are thinking things through.

How many products have you bought with million dollar marketing budgets, and not enough money to create a manual written in something resembling english, with reasonable diagrams?

Users are your best advocates, word-of-mouth only works if your users have a great experience.  As Kathy would say, if you help your users “kick ass” they will tell their friends.

Which brings me to my real point, manuals are important, but most of the time people expect them to suck and they don’t even read them.   So, even if you write great manuals, you need to think about how to market your manual to your users.

This isn’t some hypothetical post.  The software we sell at Humantech has fantastic manuals, which we spend a lot of time and money polishing up, and they work!

I’ve yet to have a support call from a user who read the manual, and nearly every support call can be solved by reference to the manual.    But people still don’t read the manual unless we prompt them.

I can usually “sell” the idea of reading the manual to any given user in the space of a support call, and once they read it they always thank me.  But we need to find ways to make our manual more “attractive” so that new users actually read it without need to be individually “sold” on the idea.
Let me know if you have any ideas/experience marketing your manuals to your users.

It’s a pretty high priority for me right now because I’m convinced that it could free up quite a bit of time and help our users have an even better experience with our software.

2 Responses to “Users are more important than potential users!”

  1. 1Adam Jones

    How are you distributing these manuals? If they are available as a help file you could look into making it context-sensitive so people could just click a “get help” button and it opens the manal pages relevant to what they are doing.

    If it isn’t, consider doing that. Also put any “getting started” information in the front of the manual as well, and fill it with “you can get more information about $X on page $Y” where appropriate.

  2. Adam,

    We provide context sensitive help already, and it helps a lot when somebody is in the right area already. The manual provides a overview of, and a structure for understanding, the process that the software is designed to facilitate.

    A “getting started” guide, and perhaps a getting started screencast is something we’ve talked about.

    Another thing we’ve been talking about is trying to find a way to distribute paper versions of something like the getting started guide or the manual to our online users in an economical way. People are still way more likely to read paper than PDF’s .


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