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Our organizations embrace multiple platforms as a way to maximize product usage and to offset the high cost of software development. However, this results in many difficult challenges for software developers. In our part of the development process, the design and implementation of user assistance components is dictated largely by the nature and number of different platforms we need to support.

In our survey we asked respondents to identify all of the platforms their products run on. The dominant platform is the most recent versions of Windows (1), including 8, 7, Vista with 90%. This has increased by 7% over last year. Half of respondents support earlier versions of Windows (2), including XP and Server 2003/2008. Far fewer, 14%, support the older versions of Windows (3) (2000, NT, and earlier).

The World Wide Web (74%) is recognized as the second biggest platform for respondents supporting it. Most software organizations appear to either already have versions of their products that can be delivered over the Web or they have some sort of strategy for doing so in the future. Server-side deployment of user assistance will continue to be an important issue for us. In our survey we distinguished between Web applications running on the Internet and those running on intranets/extranets. The latter category is supported by 53% of the respondents.

The OS cousins of UNIX (20%) and Linux (32%) continue to be important. UNIX includes Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX variants. Java sits at (24%) It is now a core component for Android applications.

Platform Table

System Response
Windows (1) (v.8, 7, Vista) 90%
World Wide Web 74%
intranets/extranets 53%
Windows (2) (XP, Server 2003/2008) 50%
Mobile 46%
Linux 32%
Mac OS X 29%
Java 24%
UNIX 20%
Windows (3) (2000, NT, and earlier) 14%
IBM mainframe 5%
OPEN VMS 5%

 

The broad label of Mobile is now supported by a healthy, growing 46% of respondents with a 7% increase over last year. “Mobile” represents a variety of operating systems within this category, including iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and others. See the breakdown below.

Mac OS X has risen from 6% a few years ago to 29% in the current survey. The influence of iPads/iPhones has definitely increased the strength of the platform.

IBM mainframe (5%) and Open VMS (5%) round out the chart.

We asked respondents to list other platforms that they support. These included: ABAP, Citrix, VMWare, Openstack, WindRiver, in-house GIS applications used with handheld devices, proprietary qms, QNX, Samsung Tizen, Aliyun YunOS, Amazon Android video players, all hardware devices (desktop, set-top, SmartTVs, phones, tablets), VMware, Windows Server 2012.

Mobile Table

The Mobile Table represents some changes in the marketplace. The top mobile formats all made significant jumps from last year’s numbers in terms of how many of us are actively supporting those platforms. iOS grew from 42% to 78%. Android increased from 39% to 66%.  Web apps improved from 44% to 60%. Windows Phone moved up from 16% to 24%. Blackberry is listed at 10% and it is difficult see that platform increasing beyond that. The Window Store category (9%) is the app-style format that has emerged through Windows 8 and most prominent in the Surface family of devices. Symbian (3%) has already been relegated to legacy status.

System Response
iOS 78%
Android 66%
Web apps (HTML/CSS) 60%
Windows Phone (v.7/8) 24%
Blackberry 10%
Windows Store (Metro-style, Modern, RT) 9%
Symbian 3%

 

Framework Table

This category represents significant standards and/or processes that have become de facto platforms. Agile has definitely become a major player in the software industry. The percentage of respondents involved with it has surged from 50% last year to 80%. For future surveys, we may do a breakdown on the types of Agile development. The .NET framework from Microsoft continues to be well-supported in the industry. DITA (24%) has maintained much the same position over the past two years. Organizations tend to either embrace DITA fully and with significant resources or not at all. Most of the other frameworks in the table will probably continue to be of interest to a dedicated portion of developers.

We asked respondents to list other frameworks they use. These included: ADDIE, Aris, CCMS, Pareto, Home-grown DTD, Word to PDFs, Jekyll, Markdown, Mallard, AsciiDoc, Markdown, Microsoft IIS, web services, crowd-sourcing, own XML standard, PyCharm, Git, Confluence, Drupal, S1000D, Sphinx/LaTeX
Trisoft CCMS.

Framework Response
Agile software development 80%
Microsoft .NET 27%
Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) 24%
Information Mapping 19%
Eclipse 10%
Simplified English (ASD-STE) 10%
ISO 9000 8%
Oracle ADF 5%
Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) 2%
Skills and Technologies Survey 2015
From foundation skills like writing and editing—to the coding of content—to usability testing and user interface design, we find ourselves in a profession that is difficult to define. What is it that we really do? The objective of this survey is to take a snapshot of our collective professional life in an attempt to identify what we value in our daily work as user assistance professionals.