Reading Usable Help
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Gordon R. Meyer
Everyone's a publisher
Move over Generation X, here comes Generation C -- that's "C" for "Content." Publishing tools and the Internet put content creation into the hands of everyone, and already 44% of adult Internet users have created online content. The generation of customers born between 1988 and 1993 is bound to push that even higher, at a fast pace. As the Cluetrain says, markets are conversations, and here the conversations are between customers; with companies lucky to be in the mix at all.
For technical communicators this implies at least two sweeping changes. First, as a corporate author, your instructional materials will have to more competitive in order to prove their usefulness. Not only will commercial third-party publications be in the mix, so will customer-to-customer documentation. Secondly, assumptions about what customers want to accomplish with their computers will need to change. For example, documentation for email programs may want to address strategies and features used for creating and sending newsletters. When your customers are "content creators," their needs and desires are more sophisticated. Will your documentation be up to the task?