Trials and tribulations

05 May 2008
I had a long conversation with a potential customer this morning about our documentation. And no, this post is not about said potential customer nor about our documentation. It's about your evaluating our .NET products and especially you finding out how to do specific things with them — the main thrust of my conversation with this almost- customer, in fact.

First of all — and this always seems to come as a surprise when I mention it to those evaluating our products — you can use our support services during your 30-day trial. We want you to get the best evaluation experience; so that, naturally, you pick our product and purchase it.

Also, we want to be sure, just like you, that our product actually does meet your needs. If it doesn't, we'll be more than happy not to sell you the subscription (after all, then you'd no longer be a potential customer, but a disgruntled irritated customer instead). We'd also like to find out and understand why. Perhaps it's something we haven't considered before, perhaps it's something we don't feel is right for us to do, perhaps it's something we should be doing, perhaps it's actually bubbling up to the top of our prioritized development stack.

So, please do use our support team and our Support Center if you have any issues during your evaluation period. It's your first port of call to resolve these questions.

Next up is the documentation. The help is installed in Visual Studio and it's also available online. We provide many demos of our controls for you to look at, we usually have introductory discussions on the individual controls in the help files, we have screencasts on using some of the major controls on our main website (even some narrated by yours truly). Of course, being developers ourselves, we recognize that the documentation is never complete enough and we're certainly making efforts to improve it. (So if you find an egregious documentation issue, by all means report it as a bug.)

As a further step along from the documentation there's our online Support Center knowledgebase. This is a search-based system (the search box is on the very first page of our main website — just be sure to select "Support Center" in the list), so the trick here is to play around with your search terms, vary the individual words, look for synonyms and equivalent phrases. Whenever our support team reply to a question, the reply becomes part of the knowledgebase. If someone else had asked a similar question to yours in the past, and support had provided source code as part of their reply, you'll find that source code in the knowledgebase. As Ray points out here, sometimes we all forget about the knowledgebase when in reality it's possibly the most important enhancer to the documentation we have.

In conclusion then, please remember that if you are evaluating our products, you can and should make use of all our support and documentation resources. After all, part of your trial is to evaluate our people and our company as well: we want you to be happy with us as well as with the product.

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