Peppermint Patty’s Grand Command for Engineers
In honor of the Easter season (yes, I’m late to the party…again), I thought I’d share one Grand Command that an amazing number of tech companies fail to follow. Peppermint Patty learned the lesson the hard way. Think you can figure it out before she does? (Click below to play.)
Your customer isn’t an engineer (unless your customer really is an engineer!). She doesn’t have your background knowledge, talk like you, think like you, or look at your product the way you do. She doesn’t know what a Phidget is or why your algorithms are better than the competition’s. She couldn’t tell the difference between a resistor and a capacitor if you held a gun to her head.
And she shouldn’t have to.
Your job is to make sure it’s easy for her to boil an egg. And that means you need to forget everything you know as an engineer, programmer, analyst, or guru, and assume the identity of your customer. Create technical resources (and a product!) that will make it easy for your customer to use and to relate to. It’s a very incarnational activity if you think about it . . . but that’s another holiday.
This can be a pretty tough task – to forget everything you know as an expert and assume the identity of an outsider – but it’s a critical one, and absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you create confusion and frustration for your customers, increase tech support costs, and risk alienating your most passionate users.
For some companies, there’s no one on staff with the time or skill set to create user-friendly resources. If you’re one of those companies, you may want to consider hiring a freelance technical writer. Freelance tech writers have both the technical experience to partner competently with you and the outsider’s perspective to relate to your customers. They also free up your engineers to do what they do best.
Or you can grit your teeth and follow Peppermint Patty’s example. But if you do, better be prepared to clean up a bunch of broken eggs.