Recently I switched from using the iRiver I bought two years ago to my wife's iPod Nano, which she only uses intermittently. I don't know why I used my iRiver for so long. The iPod is superior in every way, but mostly because it offers convenience. For example,
I have my BlackBerry clipped onto the left side of my belt and the iPod Nano clipped onto the right. Yes, it feels nerdy, but it's also extremely convenient. If I had to dig the iPod out of my backpack every time I wanted to listen to a podcast, or if I had to sit there every morning downloading podcasts, I'd be much less likely to listen. But by making podcasts extremely convenient, I plow through more episodes now than ever.
There's a lesson to learn here: Don't underestimate the importance of convenience. If you want to increase the usage of your help material, increase its convenience. Make your help context-sensitive. Provide a one-page quick reference guide. Give the user a search field that returns accurate results, etc. The long printed manual is going out of style not because it's ugly or long, but because it's inconvenient.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here. You can also contact me with questions.