When writing documentation, target audience is one of the first things on mind of an information developer. Audience determines what deliverable to choose, as well as what style and tone to apply to it. Wrong idea of the target audience’s needs may result in total failure of documentation. Therefore, a good information developer should be aware of every possible target user. Having deep knowledge of the product, understanding the aim of the documentation and the audience – their needs, possibilities, desires, and preferences, results in a masterpiece documentation.
So, how do we know what our target user wants? The answer is research! And I did a little research of my own on one of the most fast-growing generations in history. Millennials. So, let’s have a closer look at them and try to do our best to meet their expectations.
Millennials (generation Y) as the generation which was born and raised with and by technologies is one of the main powers that is reshaping the world today. Their unique views and lifestyle are already changing the ways we do business, buy, and sell. Being born between 1980-2000, in the time of rapid changes, millennials were given a certain set of priorities, very different from the previous generations. Here is what I’ve learnt about them as the users of software and the readers of documentation.
Technology over face-to-face communication
If an application is targeted at young people and you still doubt whether to invest in documentation or rather in customer support, consider the following fact. Born hand in hand with technologies, millennials tend to trust them more. For instance, how many youngsters will ask strangers on the street for directions compared to how many of them will use online maps? Technology is easier, always at the fingertips, and always ready to help. Technology won’t make you feel stupid if you ask a dull question. Millennials will consult technologies first while looking for the information they need. And if it is not in our documentation, they will find it somewhere else. So why not actually put it in the doc, right?
Information in small chunks
I believe this is related not only to millennials but also to the majority of today’s users. People don’t read documentation. Of course, they don’t! I don’t read it either. Technical documentation is not a fiction to read and enjoy, it is a piece of information to help and teach us. Whether it’s a user manual, e-learning, or any other kind of deliverable, it should be precise and strict to the point. Obviously, it should contain answers to all the possible questions, and at the same time be as short as possible. Information in small portions is much easier to be absorbed, understood, and used later on. As millennials like to say nowadays: Less is more. Sure, it is.
You can’t always use humor in the documentation and you shouldn’t. But as soon as it’s appropriate – do it. Otherwise, millennials will do it themselves and make fun of you. Of course, I’m kidding right now, but there is certainly no harm in using some wit, now and then, to engage your audience. Memes and emojis is the language of the Y generation and when it’s needed we can speak it. You can check an article about emojis and how you can use them in the tech documentation.
Also known as a constant motivation to improve things. Generation Y, which is often read as ‘Why,’ is not only about asking question but also about answering them. They want to speak and be heard. And let me repeat, if they do not find where to leave feedback in your product, they will do it somewhere else. Be generous and leave space for someone else’s word and it will pay you off.
Google is everything nowadays. People tend to google rather than read documentation. Especially millennials. They would rather spend several hours searching for the answer on Google and forums rather than consulting the product’s documentation. And this is our reality. But we should not be upset about it, we should benefit from it. I learnt about this at ETC conference in Sofia, where Leah Guren, founder of Cow TC, gave very motivational speech on the importance of documentation and its future. You can check some of the outcomes of this conference here. As never before, we have unlimited source of information about what people need, what they want, and how they want it. As well, we have unlimited source of information about what people mostly have problems with and need help with regarding technologies. And we should dig into it and use it. The treasure is out there. Just google it 🙂Certainly, knowing your audience is the key. However, you should not forget that it is not the only key to your success. Use it wisely and you will not fail.