Talk to your user?

I’ve almost completed my Master’s degree in Technical Communication, and most of the classes say the same thing. You must talk to the user to see what they need. (This may be different from what they say they want, but that’s a whole other blog post.)

I know it is rule #1 in all of technical writing – Talk to your user. You can’t create a product without knowing what the end-user needs. Yet I’ve been in multiple positions where we were so removed from the end consumer that it’s very hard to know what they really need. I’ve spoken to the client about what they need, I’ve asked to speak to the end-user, and yet the client always says that they know best. So I’ve done what any good writer does – given the client what they ask for.

But then I get some feedback (usually about 6 months later) about how the end-user liked the product I delivered. And it’s usually not as well as I had hoped. They need feature A and I was told to deliver feature B. Or they were expecting feature B and I delivered feature L – something totally different and unrelated to what they need.

And I always find it amusing that the client comes back to me and expects me to take the blame for this. Because it’s my fault that I delivered what I was told to deliver, instead of what the end-user needed.

What do you do in a situation like this? How do you explain to the client that you really do need to communicate with the end-user? Please leave your opinions and comments below – they’re always welcome!

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