Goals should always drive decisions. One of those decisions is selecting the medium (or media - we don't have to choose just one) through which we deliver knowledge. If the medium is chosen first, it will drive the development of the technical communication. Goals will be secondary.
Let's look at an example.
Our company worked with a Fortune 500 client to develop customer self-installation installation guides for DSL (digital subscriber line) service. Until our guides were released, all DSL service in the U.S. was installed at customer sites by data technicians - a very expensive and resource-intensive process.
The hardware for our client's first DSL service included a DSL router connected to a customer's computer through a network interface card.
At that time, many personal computers did not include a network interface card. Customers had to install a network interface card as part of the DSL installation process.
Network interface cards were a commodity item with low-quality installation instructions. Our usability testing showed that most customers had trouble installing the cards. If customers could not install the cards, they could not successfully install the client's DSL service.
The DSL project team felt that the DSL installation guide should not explain how to install a network interface card. That was the network interface card vendor's job.
The problem: we were more concerned with the medium - the DSL installation guide - than with the goal. The goal was simple: give customers the knowledge they need to successfully install their DSL service.
As soon as we focused on our goal, we realized that the DSL installation guide should include high-quality instructions for installing a network interface card.
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