The Role of Information/Documentation in Product Adoption

How does information or documentation influence your decisions to download, install, and use a product? What role can tech writers/information designers play in the success of a product or a company? Is it that you download a product and then look at the documentation, or is it that we can provide you with information that influences your decision to download and use a product? Can we help to grow our user base, in addition to providing information that helps people to be productive with our products and technologies?

Growing the number of people using our products and technologies contributes to the success of a product and a company. I've been looking for ways to show a correlation between the technical information we provide and the success of a product/technology and to goals supporting the success of Sun. We've been looking at how to combine docs usage metrics with voice of the customer to get a better idea of showing how documentation contributes to product adoption.

Metrics alone doesn't tell you enough of what is going on. You can monitor docs usage trends and identify changes in trends that warrant further evaluation. Still, you need the feedback and voice of the customer to add meaning to the metrics. Conversely, voice of the customer alone isn't enough. We can have people that are very satisfied with our docs, but maybe we have only a small number of people using those docs.

How do we grow the number of people using our docs while maintaining the quality of the docs? How do we ensure we are delivering the right content in the right formats to the right locations where you can find and use that information?

When I was thinking about metrics this morning and asking myself how do we show the relationship between docs usage trends and product downloads, I realized I could ask people questions on how they use information and if information plays a part in their downloading Sun products. So here goes with a couple of questions. You can either send an email to david.lindt at or post a comment to this blog.

  • Does technical information play a part in your decision to download a product?
  • What technical information can we provide that motivates you to download our products and to use those products?
  • What information types do you find useful? Podcasts, screencasts, webcasts, technical articles, tutorials, books, etc.
  • As you start to use a product, what information types do you use?
  • As a tech pubs org, where should we focus our efforts? More multimedia, more books, more shorter web docs, other?

Thanks in advance for your participation.


Importance of documentation with respect to product download and installation is dependent on who it is that downloads and installs the product.

Engineers will be inclined to study the documentation throughly before using a product, and are likely to base their decision to use the product on the quality of the documentation.

Ordinary users will just want to start using the product and hate reading the documentation; the problem is, they want to use the computer the same way they use a washing machine or a toaster. And that's of course a problem, because a computer is much more generic and therefore much more complex than either of those, so unfortunately, such line of thinking is a fallacy. I maintain that documentation has no influence on the decisions of ordinary users to download and use a product. Software availability and perception is what drives adoption in that space.

On the other hand, if your product consumer is an engineer, the quality of documentaton will make or break the decision to download and use the product.

Posted by UX-admin on January 27, 2007 at 07:03 PM PST #

Thank you for your comments. A lot of my focus is on providing documentation for software developers, so I do think the quality of our docs for developer products can help to influence downloads and use. Can we through our documentation or information, make it easier for you to develop applications on Solaris or deploy applications on Solaris?

A lot of factors play into whether you want to develop on Solaris or deploy a version of your application on Solaris. Some of the factors include the size of the market on Solaris or the number applications on Solaris. The quality of the developer tools on Solaris or features of the developer tools that can provide a performance advantage on Solaris can be other factors.

Providing information that can help a developer decide to develop or deploy an application on Solaris is a good thing. Providing information that helps a developer to move from downloading the tools to installing the tools and using the tools is good.

Letting us know the information you need is very valuable. So thanks again for your comments.

Posted by guest on February 01, 2007 at 08:43 AM PST #

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