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 in the American psyche.
The show follows a set formula. A real estate agent asks the home buyers how much money 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. Things that look great but are pricey and don’t make the kitchen any more functional or easier to cook in.
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
- Custom designed packaging or binding for printed material
And here are some top contenders for the should-be list:
- Task oriented: Geared to real users and the real tasks they do
- Relevant: Not just oriented to users’ tasks, but to their world and they way it looks to them
- Portable: Built from content that can be reused in different contexts, in different output formats, on different media
Part of my job is showing clients why they should care more about the second list and 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 you add to either one of the lists?
Originally published, with slightly different content, on the SDI blog, 11 July 2012