Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blog's on Alltop

Last week, I got a mail from Guy Kawasaki telling me they'd put this blog up at their site Alltop. The blog's under the Technical Writing category.

:-) Wow, someone like Guy Kawasaki thinks this blog is interesting. In delight, I've put an Alltop badge in the sidebar of this blog.


Friday, November 21, 2008

User is king

I have an account with a public-sector bank. It's a bank that opened a branch right next to our new office (of one of my previous employer-companies), and it's where my salary was credited. I still have that account, but since it's about 7 kms from my residence, I was thinking in terms of internet banking...

"Not a chance", scoffed the brother. "It's a public sector bank; they're dinosaurs."

I didn't agree with that line of reasoning, so I went and checked their website. Sure enough, they had internet banking facility. They even had an FAQ for users of their internet-banking facility. I saw the FAQ page and saw red. The following image is a composite screenshot of their FAQ page peppered with my red-ink comments (to magnify the picture, click on the picture).

And then it struck me. I was looking at the Web page as a techwriter, not as a user.

An average internet-banking user of this bank would be an Indian whose primary language, either at school or at home, was not and is not English. Such a person would not even notice the errors I’ve marked. Such a person would find the text totally comprehensible, unambiguous, and useful - though a tad incomplete because it answers only about four questions and doesn’t even address the how-to of the options provided by the internet-banking facility.

Such a person is the average user of the webpage. Which means, almost none of my edits are required.

Does it matter at all that a minuscule percentage of users, like me, are put off by badly-written help? And no, it’s not because I am a tech-writer that I am put off. Ever since I can remember, I’ve hated badly-written text (even before I knew - courtesy technical writing - why I hated them). It somehow smacks of a cavalier attitude.

Coming back to the example in question - I, as that minuscule user percentage, am put off by the bank’s FAQ page and will never read it. How does that effect me, the user, and other users like me? I, for one, will never use their internet services, preferring to physically visit the bank for my transactions - if they can’t get their webpage right, they won’t get my online transactions right as well. Presumptuous and unfair of me, but still… Does it effect the bank? Nope. They’ve still got my account with them. But in the longer run, I may be leaning more towards banks that care…

So, where does audience analysis begin? And stop?