Understanding the impact of culture is a key part of creating useful, usable information. First, consider your audience:

  • Does your audience have a common culture?
  • What sorts of things do your audience members have in common?
  • How should those common factors affect your design?
  • What is the best way to support your audience?
  • Is your audience change-averse? What is the best way to introduce changes?

This is basic audience analysis; nothing new to see here. There are, however, other cultural factors that you need to consider. These include the culture of your content creators and the corporate culture.

Corporate culture affects what information products you can create. For example, a risk-averse corporation with a penchant for secrecy is going to have a tough time with publishing user documentation for the world to see. A startup company with limited funds and aggressive deadlines may want to lean on the user community to produce content—even though, as a startup, there might not be a user community yet!

The risks associated with using your product matter to the culture of your audience. Gamers have different expectations for game documentation than surgeons do for medical devices. Documenting software used in a medical setting requires a different attitude than documenting a game.

Beyond the corporate culture and audience, you also need to consider the culture of the locales where you are active. Local culture should affect your choice of branding, colors, presentation, and idiom.

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