Documentation and Support
For billions of people with smartphones today, and relatively simple needs
(Facebook or Twitter posts, Instagram photos, and the like) that are satisfied by
simple Apps, documentation and support is usually not a big problem. But people who are
actually creating new and important tasks, or doing more complicated and productive
tasks, don't have such an easy time of it, and can be frustrated by complexity or
poorly-designed user interfaces or other problems.
Documentation standards are highly variable. Because of its potential effect on
health, the pharmaceutical industry has a set of guidelines called Good Documention
Practice. Would that the technology business had a similar set. In contrast to
virtually every non-technology product, which seems to have some form of User
Manual (usually a pretty good one), technology products have documentation ranging
from nothing at all to very complete. Increasingly the sellers are turning the job
over to their customers; it is as if the inmates are now running the asylum. They
offer some sort of forum on which customers ask questions, which hopefully are
answered correctly and completely by other customers. One of the most flagrant
examples is the Codex (and most of the crowd selling plugins) for WordPress. And
the "WordPress for Dummies" book sets a new low for the often-low quality of
many " ... for Dummies" books. By contrast, Microsoft has historically had
comprehensive company-prepared Help screens (though they have been arguably a
necessity due to the complicated functionality of their software).
Customer support is at least as bad as documentation. Mostly, it is more noted in
the breach than the observance. Shouldn't this be a part of doing business? The
customer is either paying cash for the product or accepting a fire hose of
advertisement flow. It is mostly limited to a more-or-less sophisticated Frequently
Asked Questions list. If these don't work, an email service or interactive
semi-real-time chat can be a big improvement ... depending on the knowledge of the
individual at the seller. In rare cases, usually for expensive products, there is
telephone support (which should normally be good ... if the wait is not too long).
Our experience is that frequently third-party sites (e.g., some of the largest
publisher of news) do a better job with basic questions than the product sellers do.