Audience, Market, Product Webinar

As I get caught up on overdue blog topics, I want to thank (albeit belatedly) the participants of my webinar, last December. Unfortunately, I was very sick on the day of the event (so being remote was probably best for everyone), but I want to thank them for their patience. The feedback they provided after the course will help me refine the presentation.

In the mean time, the slide deck used in the webinar is available  at:

More Audience, Market, Product

In a recent post, I introduced the Audience, Market, and Product framework. Within this framework, it is possible to understand the characteristics of each that influence the documentation plan. During this investigation, you might learn more about each that can also help guide the product development and marketing, in fact, I would be surprised if you didn’t, but I’m going to constrain the scope of this analysis to documentation only.

The previous post described these components of the framework and here, I look at what you need to know about each one to design your documentation plan. In future posts, I’ll describe some of the ways to learn what you need to know about each component.

When reviewing the following points, keep in mind that these aspects can vary over time. For example, the documentation requirements will change as the audience becomes more familiar with the product or the product becomes more (or less) successful in the market. So, it’s important to consider these components as dynamic and not static.


In looking at the audience, you want to have a clear picture of who the readers are. How will they consume and apply information about the product? This is important to know in order to design the content in a way that they’ll find most useful and effective.


In reviewing the market in which the product is offered, you want to understand the position of both the product and the company in the market. This is essential to develop the rhetorical approach of the documentation that will be most effective for the customer and for the company. For example, does the documentation need to help sell the product or would that tone be inappropriate and counterproductive?


Finally, there’s the product and its aspects that influence documentation. Some of these aspects can be large and obvious, like key features and functionality, while others might appear to be subtle, yet still have considerable impact on the documentation. As with the other components, the ultimate goal of knowing this is to develop a clear picture of what the customer needs to be successful with the product and what the company needs to be successful.

What’s next

In the posts that follow, I’ll present some of the questions to ask in order to find out the what you need to know to design your documentation plan.

Audience, Market, Product

In a podcast-interview I did with Tom Johnson, I mentioned this framework as a way to evaluate technical documentation requirements. The components of audience, market, and product aren’t anything new, nor is considering them in documentation planning. What’s been missing, however, is an effective way to understand them in a way that informs documentation.

This framework is my latest iteration on how to apply the 12 cognitive dimensions of API usability to technical documentation. These dimensions, by themselves, are very difficult to apply for various reasons, but I think the notion of identifying the components and elements of an interaction can be useful—but the method must be usable. So, I’ve taken a step back from the level of detail the 12 dimensions to these three.

In this framework, it’s essential to consider, not just the documentation, but the entire customer experience in which the documentation will reside to correctly assess the requirements. I’m still thinking out loud because I think that there’s some value in lingering on the question(s) before diving into the solution process.

So to review the framework’s components…


These are the people who will (or who you expect to) read the content. Content includes anything you write for someone else to read. The boundaries of this depend on a lot of local variables, but should include all the content of the entire customer experience. Your audience might be segmented into groups such as  business/purchase decision makers, direct users, indirect users, support, development. You should know how they all interact with the entire customer experience.


For this analysis, the market is the space in which your company or product is acquired. It could be an open-source product that offers a service or benefit similar to others. It could be downloaded from an app store. It could be something sold door-to-door. How your product appears in the space it shares with other similar products influences your content priorities. The more you know about the relationship between your product, its competitors, and its customers, the better you can assess those influences.


Finally, there’s the product itself. How does it work? What does it do? How is it designed? What are its key features and benefits to the customer? What are its challenges? Knowing how the product’s features interact with the customer (i.e. audience) has a significant influence on the documentation.

And so…

And so, that’s where it begins. I’m still formulating the questions, and I think the questions are the key to bringing this down from a theoretical notion to something that can be applied by practitioners.

It all starts with knowledge (as opposed to assumption and conjecture) and that usually comes from research. With regard to research, I found these articles to be interesting:

Next, I’ll look at the questions that are specific to each component.