The cranky user: The importance of documentation

Users are berated and insulted for not having consulted the documentation, but, in many cases, the user can hardly be blamed. The documentation is shoddy, incomplete, and badly organized, if it’s present at all. Exceptions are becoming rarer and rarer.| As documentation decreases in quality, users stop turning to it. As users stop turning to it, companies stop trying to maintain it — why bother, if the users won’t read it? This line of reasoning is dooming the future of documentation to failure. Documentation is important and needs to be taken seriously. —Peter SeebachThe cranky user: The importance of documentation (IBM)

Seebach was the good-natured target of my pedantry earlier in the year when I criticized a title an editor chose for one of his articles, originally titled “Here ye — let thine site visitors speak“. I’ve only been away from teaching technical writing for one semester, but I really wish I’d had the time to introduce my “Writing for the Internet” students to some basic technical writing concepts such as report writing. But the semester just got too chatoic. Oh, well, maybe next time.