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Understanding End Users’ Needs and Tailoring Technical Communication

Technical documentation is essential for product success, as it connects the product to all stakeholders. However, creating effective documentation that meets user needs is challenging. It requires following regulations, avoiding too much or irrelevant information, and understanding the purpose of the documentation. The key is striking the right balance to provide clear, useful information to users.

Technical documentation plays a crucial role in ensuring the success of your product, since it serves as a bridge between the product and all the people involved with it in any manner. Nevertheless, creating appropriate documentation for the intended users and comprehending their requirements is a challenging endeavor. It involves adhering to regulations, avoiding the provision of excessive or irrelevant information to the users, and comprehending the purpose of the documentation. How can you achieve this?

Understanding of your Audience

If you want to create effective technical documentation, your first goal should be familiarize yourself with the needs of your target group. Different users have varying levels of expertise and even more varying needs, which makes this process a crucial part of any documentation project. Knowing who is going to read the documentation and how they are going to use it in their everyday work will help you develop content that is clearer, more understandable and – most importantly – relevant and useful to its readers.

Before you make a final decision concerning what types of documentation you need to develop, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Roles. Identify the roles and make sure that the developed documentation is relevant to their needs. Keep in mind that installers and end users need different kinds of documentation; a highly technical document may be discouraging for non-technical users, while overloading a maintenance manual with irrelevant information might lead to annoyance. 
  • Language. Remember that your documentation might be read by people other than native speakers of your language and in some cases it may be translated into other languages as well. Consider using standards such as Simplified Technical English to make your documentation readable, clear and concise.  
  • Experience level. Analyze the experience level of your audience to avoid filling your documentation with too much information. This will help you determine the depth and complexity of the information you need to include. 

All in Compliance with Requirements

Industries have rules for creating technical documentation. For example, the European Union has the Machinery Directive, which sets safety and health requirements for machinery. Compliance with these requirements is crucial to avoid legal issues, harm to products, and risks to the health and safety of maintenance personnel and users.

When creating technical documentation, make sure that you:

  • Understand the applicable laws and regulations. Familiarize yourself with the regulations, standards, and directives relevant to your industry and product. This may include international, national, and industry-specific guidelines.
  • Incorporate required information. Make sure that your documentation includes all the regulation-mandated information – safety instructions, risk assessments, technical data and more.
  • Follow formatting and language guidelines. Many regulations set requirements regarding the format, language, and structure of technical documentation. Ensure that your documentation adheres to these guidelines to maintain compliance and avoid potential legal issues

By adhering to compliance requirements, you not only protect your organization from legal repercussions but also ensure that your documentation is universally accessible and user-friendly.

Working with Audiences

Tailoring the documentation to the needs of its users requires understanding their goals, needs and objectives. Keep in mind that one of the key purposes of technical documentation is to provide relevant information needed by the readers to install, maintain and operate the product or service in a proper and efficient manner, as well as to troubleshoot any arising problems or find answers to their questions.

Look for answers to the following questions:

  • What is the primary goal of the documentation? Is it to instruct users on how to use the product, troubleshoot issues, or provide a reference for technical specifications? Knowing the purpose will help you focus on the most relevant information.
  • What are the expectations? Understand the audience’s expectations regarding the level of detail, language, format, and compliance requirements.
  • What are the end-users’ needs? Consider the problems and challenges that the end-users face when they use the product. Address these issues in your documentation to provide effective solutions and guidance.

Good quality of technical documentation means good user-experience

Tailoring technical documentation to end users' needs is critical in developing effective, helpful and user-friendly content. By understanding your audience, determining the documentation's purpose, adhering to compliance requirements, and avoiding redundant information you can create technical documentation that meets the needs of both the client and the end user. This will lead to improved user experiences, increased product adoption, and ultimately, greater success for your organization. Our experts can help you to reach this goal.

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Kimmo Kallio

Vice President Technical Communication Solutions

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