2 years ago I was asked by the company I work for to try and learn our software to see how "user friendly" it is for non-engineers. I'm a graphic designer, so it was important for me to know how to use the software because it allows customers to create their own interactive Graphic User Interfaces (GUI) design with buttons and multiple pages. The software can be used for anything -appliances (like a refrigerator or stove), medical devices, automotive... all you need is the hardware (which our company also provides).
I tried using the software -which works like Dreamweaver with its own scripting language you use to upload images and buttons on the screen. I also got VERY familiar with the User's Guide because a lot of it involved entering text code.
After about a month of using the software, I was fairly competent and got the basics down. As a Marketing Assistant I then shared my findings with the marketing team and told them: Our user guide sucks. It was written by engineers for engineers and is very in-depth. The font was also "courier"? which made things hard to read.
I wanted to shoot the instructions in the face. The documentation also lacked more advanced applications. Or rather, it had "Basic" and "Ultimate Superior Expert Who Knows Everything". It had no intermediate information.
They decided, especially since a new software version was being created, to re-do the documentation. YAY!!! I told them I'd help out with the organization of it and making legible. That then became an opened can of worms because we then realized that ALL of the documentation was outdated and lacking. Whoops...
2 years later, we created 2 new documents for the new, updated Software that makes it easier for new users to get started. But the old documentation -which you need to get beyond the basics, is 222 pages of unorganized mess.
About 3 months ago I conducted a customer feedback survey to see how happy customers were with our product. The number 1 issue they complained about was our software documentation being too complicated, too hard to find, and not showing enough examples. I shared these findings with the marketing team and was basically told, "Well that's because our website was having issues and they probably couldn't get access to the documentation. It's not a big deal."
Our company hired a new guy who just started his week. His expertise is in hardware and software documentation for customer use. He just gave a review of our documentation today. It wasn't good.
He basically said it wasn't easy enough to figure out where to begin. ALL of the documentation referred to our old software -not our updated version. Most of the stuff in the 222 page user's guide could be turned into app notes instead and it wasn't until page 45 that he got to useful information he was looking for. He also said it was very unorganized and was clearly written by at least 3 people.
And everyone in the meeting was like, "Whoa! Thanks for being honest with us, it's good to have new eyes looking at this. I didn't know the document was that long. Ok well now we'll put you in charge of revising the documentation and making sure this gets fixed."
I go out of my way to do research and present findings to the marketing team sometimes and it's like it goes in one ear and out the other. I think it's because I'm 26 and there all 50+. It also doesn't help that they're talkative, take-charge men and I'm a quiet, patient girl.