February 21, 2006

How do I turn this thing on?

I caught the following passages over at HardOCP this morning. The quote comes from a review of the Voodoo ARIA Home Theater PC (HTPC). Although the product is a Windows-based computer, the outer case and presentation to the user is drastically different from a typical PC.

One thing that I mentioned earlier was the extreme lack of documentation on the Voodoo PC ARIA. Granted, it’s a new product for Voodoo, but we spent a small fortune on this system and I was actually scared when I first pulled it out and realized I had no idea how I was going to use this system in conjunction with my entertainment center. My perception of value had dropped significantly. Heck, my $250 Panasonic DVD player has a 100% complete manual that explains every single nuance of every single function you could possibly use.

I didn’t even have the first bit of information regarding how to use Windows Media Center Edition – so I did what any guy would do – I hooked it up and started pressing buttons.

It took me a good hour to figure out how to get a properly sized video signal to my TV, so I figured that it would be a perfect question for Voodoo to answer.

... My point of contact for anything I needed was with my sales representative, Lance. Lance and I exchanged a couple dozen emails and phone calls, many instigated by him and inquiring to how my system was doing. That calmed many of my fears about being stranded.

Lance got me in touch with their technical support department and I was quickly assisted by their knowledgeable staff in setting up the ARIA to not only interface properly with my HDTV, but to be sure that my Audigy 2 ZS was properly configured.

I also received updated documents on the ARIA’s functionality that I hope will be included in future ARIA sales – they were certainly things I would have liked to know out of the box.

The emphasis is mine. I wonder: how many users end up not finding what they want in the LabVIEW documentation and then reduce their opinion of our product? Is there anything we can do about this?

Coincidentally there is an ongoing thread on the Dev Zone about how users best learn LabVIEW. It's interesting to see some of the comments there regarding the documentation. Because we (tech writers) don't deal with customers on a daily basis, it can be a little unnerving to hear their unbiased opinions about our work! But all feedback is helpful and (given the proper resources and time) will lead to improvements. This thread is an opportunity to get some interesting data points and scenarios from actual customers, which is great. We're also working on ways to give customers a more direct way to comment on the documentation.

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