Presented by Nicky Bleiel at Documentation and Training West, May 6-9, 2008 in Vancouver, BC
Documentation deliverables have evolved beyond manuals and online help in recent years, and with the emergence of Web 2.0, things are changing faster than ever. Technical communicators have many more options to enhance the user experience, and developing many of them provide the opportunity to work with other departments to find a more holistic approach to content development and delivery. But there is no one-size-fits-all set of solutions. This session will review the types of analysis you need to do to determine which deliverables are right for your project, your customer, and your company.
Other factors that cant be ignored, such as translation needs, staff/time constraints, file size limitations, corporate image and control, and proprietary concerns will also be discussed, including:
* Analyzing the Product - Intended audience; delivery method (desktop, web application, etc.); competitor offerings; software development methodology. The UI as part of the Help system. Product Management expectations.
* Identifying User Wants and Needs—Preferences and expectations for information; work environment; knowledge and experience levels.
* Ascertaining Internal Needs and Opportunities—Working with Training, Support, and Marketing to reduce duplication and provide the user with consistent, useful information. Finding ways to incorporate information from other departments to improve documentation.
* Accessing Deliverable Options what is the optimum mix for the product?—The traditional: online help, manuals, embedded help, job aids, forums, web sites, technical support knowledgebases. Emerging trends: wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, software demonstrations, podcasts, and other collaborative tools. They can supplement and/or enhance the traditional. Or, they may be a better fit for internal knowledge management or marketing use.
* Optimizing the Library—Single-sourcing; best practices for structuring information; continuous publishing.