Blockbuster Video is going bust. Although they have not officially filed for bankruptcy, it seems certain they will soon have no choice. This comes as no surprise, of course. The very idea of driving to a store to rent a movie is as outdated as a typewriter or Windows 3.1.

People today get their movies through mail rental services, downloading (legal and otherwise), video on demand and even vending machines. The funny thing is that Blockbuster offers these alternate services, yet is still going broke. Why? Because most of its customers are simply not aware of these services, allowing other companies to corner the market.

Lack of awareness is a big problem for our profession. Users don’t know how to use products because the users are unaware. If helpful documentation is available, users don’t know it. If users do know that documentation is available, they don’t know how to find it. If users can find it, they don’t know how to effectively use it. And even if the users do know how to use the document, the document itself may lack awareness if it does not clearly explain what the user is looking for.

As a result of all this ignorance, many working products are returned to stores because the users could not figure them out. The goal, therefore, should be to create visible, usable documentation. Otherwise, you will get busted.