Updating our UsersOver the years it has become increasingly noticeable that our end users just don't get to know the capabilities of our software. In many cases they have been creating and editing S1000D Data Modules for years and don't know that there are features which would greatly speed up their production and possibly increase the accuracy and convenience of their task.
Of course we provide a comprehensive User Guide which includes instructions for not only what the software does but how to use some of the Data Module types.
If, as is the case for a large number of our users, they are familiar with our products, they just don't know what has been added. It is often the case that unless they are reporting an unrelated problem and we have a conversation with them to find out how they are finding our application that they hear about feature updates.
Let’s be honest about this, most authors are being pushed to up their output and do not have time to look at the user guide. I must admit that my wife is often nagging me to change my general view of “if all else fails read the handbook”. There is often the case, particularly for one of our productivity features, the person who installed the software has not ticked the box to make it available to the user.
Perhaps I need to mention that a lot of the new features that we introduce have been suggested by our end users. We are always grateful for feedback. Our score for Customer Support in our annual survey always scores very high so we do that bit right but of course we try to improve on our performance whenever we can.
How do we grab their attentionOf course we send out emails and letters to the ‘registered’ contact in a company saying what the new release contains. In most companies that gets passed on directly to the IT department for them to download the installer and update each client machine. It is generally obvious that the recipient of the communications does not pass that on to the actual users.
IT Departments generally do not look at the installation instructions which are, in our case, included in the zip file containing the Installer. Why should they, they know all about installing software don’t they? (Sorry about the slightly sarcastic comment here!).
Software updates are not quite the same as equipment updates are they? Hardware updates are discovered when the technician has to use the handbook to fix a piece of equipment. For software the user is unlikely to see signs of an extra feature unless they are observant and notice an extra Menu option.
Help extra to the User GuideWe realise that the old adage of a picture is worth a thousand words is true. Our take on this is to make short videos available on line to demonstrate the, what were once, extra features. We keep on adding to this resource.
But how does the end user get to know about these videos? This is the same problem as finding out about the updated features isn't it?
Of course these videos may be unavailable for numbers of our users. They are sitting on a network which is very secure and has absolutely no access to the Internet. So:
- Should we make these available as part of the Installer?
- And if they are part of the installer should their installation be a choice?
- In which case we are back to the earlier problem of what the IT Department actually installs aren’t we?
Other peoples experiencesGiven that this problem must be pretty universal it would be good to know what others think.
It would be particularly good to know how end-users think that this problem can be solved.
Of course there is the old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you may not be able to get it to drink” but shall we put this problem on one side?
There does need to be a really good way to get through to the end user.
An experimentWe are about to undertake a small experiment to see if we can break the circle of not updating the end user. It looks good on paper. Only time will tell.
If it works I’ll let you know.