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Document 360: #1 Knowledge Base Software

Podcast: How to Create User-Centered Documentation, Interview with Joe Sokohl

User-centered documentation

by Tom Johnson on May 30, 2008 •
categories: podcasts

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Duration: 15 min.

In this podcast, Joe Sokohl explains how to create user-centered documentation by contacting, observing, and interviewing users to gather information about what types of information they use and the help deliverables they actually want.

In his experience, Joe found that almost no one used the user manual, but instead wanted quick information for specific tasks. The users hated stand-up training with PowerPoint slides (what the execs thought users needed), and instead wanted hands-on experience with the real system.

Creating user-centered documention requires technical writers to break the standard (and ridiculous) rule of not contacting the user, to get out of their shells and interact and interview others, and to often challenge standards and assumptions from executives. It may be hard, but doing so is essential, because if you end up creating the wrong deliverables, all your efforts to create help may be irrelevant and useless.

In the podcast, Joe recommends a number of books:

For more information on Joe Sokohl, see his blog here. Also, I blogged about this presentation earlier here.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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