By Larry Kunz
posted on July 11, 2012 09:37
Though it's probably the most low-key reality show on television, HGTV's House Hunters has uncovered an overwhelming, and heretofore unknown, passion lurking deep down in the American psyche.
The show, if you haven't seen it, follows a set formula. A real estate agent asks the home buyers how much they have to spend and what features they want. Then we watch as they tour three homes, commenting pro and con on each one. After the buyers choose one of the homes, we visit with them post-move and hear them tell us how happy they are with their choice.
The overwhelming passion expresses itself in the features they want. Every buyer, to a man (or woman), wants the kitchen to have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. They want things that look great but are pricey and don't make the kitchen any more functional or easier to cook in.
(After they tour three houses, and cold reality sets in, the buyers don't always get the granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. A cardinal rule of House Hunters is that home buyers always want more than they can afford.)
Anyway, I got to thinking: What are the granite countertops and stainless steel appliances of technical communication? What are the things that every company, every client, wants to see in their technical and marketing communication projects -- regardless of cost or actual business value?
And what should be on everyone's wish list -- but too often isn't considered?
Here's the GC&SSA list as I see it. Nice to look at, pricey, and not returning much value:
- Graphics heavy ("make it look nice")
- Four-color treatment through and through
- Durable, often custom-designed binding for printed material
And here are some top contenders for the should-be list -- which of course will vary depending on the audience and its needs:
- Task oriented: Geared to real users and the real tasks they do
- Portable: Built from content that can be reused in different contexts and for different output formats
- Multimedia: readable on laptop, tablet, and smartphone -- and maybe in print too
Part of my job is showing clients why they should care more about the second list and maybe a little less about the first.
Does your company, or do your clients, favor the GC&SSA approach? Or do their wish lists center on things that are less glamorous but have lasting value?
What would add to either one of the lists?
About the Author
Larry Kunz is a project manager and information architect with SDI with more than 30 years’ experience as a writer, manager, and planner. He has experienced the transition from book-based documentation to today's integrated delivery of information both as a writer and a manager. Larry is a Fellow in the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and in 2010 received the STC President’s Award for leading the Society's strategic planning effort.