As the first quarter of 2019 is nearly over, it is time to take a look at the past. Adina’s third operational year has begun.

Adina’s second year was busy: we got assignments from various fields of industry and recruited more people. Our writer Ulla got company as Katri and Eija joined our forces – by now both Ulla and Katri have been with us for more than a year.

We have helped several companies improve their user documentation. With each customer, we have discussed what good quality means in user documentation. Very often terms such as usability, findability, and readability come up. In addition, we keep repeating the sentence “right content for the right audience”.

Together with our customers, we have also considered the effect of legal requirements on user documentation. Various certifications and EU directives regulate the contents of user documentation, depending on the product and its features. Countries outside of the EU may have national consumer legislation, which needs to be considered especially when planning the sales start of consumer goods in those countries. Importers may also have specific requirements. Each of these parties may set their own requirements to the contents of user documentation and determine, for example, in which format and language the user documentation must be provided and how it should look like. In Finland, for example, TUKES (Finnish safety and chemicals agency) provides instructions on what information user documentation should contain (unfortunately only in Finnish). TUKES states that “A company must provide adequate instructions and information with the product to ensure safe and appropriate first use, operation, maintenance, and disposal of the product.”

In addition to TUKES’ instructions, we have lately studied carefully the EU machinery directive, which lists requirements for user documentation (appendix 1: chapter 1.7.4. Instructions). As a brand new field for us, we have examined the standards related to amusement park equipment.

Many aspects in user documentation puzzle our customers, and this recent news headline shows well why good and easy-to-use user documentation can even be a life saver: “Two pilots reported problems with Boeing 737 Max 8 in the US – “The instruction manual is almost criminally inadequate” (Helsingin Sanomat 13 March 2019, in Finnish). It would be interesting to read this “almost criminally inadequate” instruction manual, as we could learn a lot from it. In any case, something has gone seriously wrong in producing the manual.

We have also helped our customers invite tenders from localisation agencies, create localisation strategies, and manage localisation projects in multilingual environments.

We got our first customers outside of Finland: we are working on a project in the Czech Republic, and starting a new one in Italy. In addition to documentation and consulting projects, we have held various trainings in the field of technical documentation. We organised an online document project management course (for Cork Institute of Technology) and trained our customers’ writers in modular documentation. Last week our Laura held a workshop on identifying and implementing metadata for intelligent content in Tekom’s spring conference in Vienna, and continues on the subject in April in the Information Energy conference in Amsterdam. Again, a couple of new conference presentations added on Laura’s list.

It has been great to notice that companies really do want to provide good quality documentation for their customers. If you need information on how to manage a successful documentation project, or if you are unsure what legal requirements are needed in your user documentation, do contact us.

– Anu