The 2013 WritersUA Skills and Technologies Survey
The use of technologies is a defining element in the identity of software user assistance professionals. Enhancing a product’s usability requires transforming our words and ideas into digital form using a variety of technologies. In our survey we provided a list of popular user assistance technologies and asked the respondents to value the importance of those technologies in their current development efforts.
Support for manuals in the form of PDF (82%) is at the top of the list as the most valued technology component. Using PDF as a delivery format has become a staple in our documentation sets. PDF files can be delivered on an installation CD or via the Web. In the past, this technology was mainly used for legacy print documents like user guides, and also for supplemental white papers and troubleshooting information. Today we find many organizations using PDF files as the primary distribution format for product documentation.
The World Wide Web (64%) continues to be a key element of our user assistance as evidenced by the strong showing in the survey. This includes content that is distributed through the public Internet and private intranets. Until recently, the Web was primarily used as a supplement to online Help and printed manuals. As we move increasingly toward Web-based applications and ubiquitous broadband Internet connections, server-side deployment of user assistance via the Web is becoming a hot topic in many tech pubs departments. So the Web is filling more than one role.
Traditional documentation components such as quick reference materials (57%), knowledge-bases (45%) are still valued highly by over half of respondents. Microsoft HTML Help (29%) and Paper-based manuals (22%) have significantly dropped in popularity.
Collaborative technologies like discussion Forums (27%), Wikis (29%), and Interactive Helpers (18%) have maintained the same level of popularity.
Here is the complete list of skills presented in the survey. They are separate into functional groups. The percentages are of responses rating a technology as “Very Valuable” or “Invaluable”.
Microsoft Help Systems Table
|HTML Help 1.x (.chm)||29%|
|Help 2.x for Visual Studio (.hxs)||5%|
|Help Viewer 1.0 for Visual Studio (.mshc)||2%|
Other Help Systems Table
(WebHelp or any HTML/XML-based Help content displayed in a browser)
|Oracle Help for Web||2%|
|Oracle Help for Java||2%|
Manuals (User, Admin, Installation, or Reference Guides) Table
|Print (distributed on paper)||23%|
Other Delivery Technologies Table
|World Wide Web or intranet content||64%|
|Quick reference (Reference cards, Getting Started guides, release notes, job aids)||57%|
|Multimedia tutorials (Video, Flash, simulations)||48%|
|Knowledge bases (web-based repositories for reference information)||45%|
|Forums (discussion groups, blogs, Twitter)||27%|
|Interactive helpers (wizards, troubleshooters)||18%|
|Social sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.)||10%|
Other delivery technologies mentioned by respondents: Adobe AIR and proprietary solutions.
A number of respondents mentioned specific tools. We keep tools in a separate Tools Survey.