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Writing Reusable Content To Support Information Models
 

Writing Reusable Content To Support Information Models

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Presented at DocTrain East 2007 Conference by Pamela Kostur, Parallax Communications -- Okay, so you have an information model -- a structure -- but now you have to figure out how to write the content ...

Presented at DocTrain East 2007 Conference by Pamela Kostur, Parallax Communications -- Okay, so you have an information model -- a structure -- but now you have to figure out how to write the content that goes into that structure. How do you write content that will be usable and consistent, regardless of who is writing? This session shows you how to create consistent, reusable content to support your structures, and how to create writing guidelines that all authors can follow.

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    Writing Reusable Content To Support Information Models Writing Reusable Content To Support Information Models Presentation Transcript

    • Writing Reusable Content to Support Information Models Pamela Kostur Partner Parallax Communications
    • Introduction Information models and reusable content What’s the relationship? How do models define structure? Where does reusable content fit? © Parallax Communications 2007
    • What are information models? Document the structure of your information products Indicate which components they contain, how the components are structured, and where they are used Indicate common structures and content across information products Document how to write content consistently © Parallax Communications 2007
    • What is structure? The way information products are put together The way content is written within that structure Structure ensures consistency whoever writes the information product or a part of it © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Structure of info products Typically follow a standard order: Overview Product features Product specs Installation procedures Configuration procedures Troubleshooting procedures Varies depending on type of info product © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Consistency is key Similar types of information products should follow similar structures Sets user expectations Helps them to find info more quickly When structures differ: Users have to relearn Writers don’t have a standard © Parallax Communications 2007
    • On consistency in online applications “For every knob, button and widget on your computer screen, there’s a complex set of behaviours that we’ve become so accustomed to that we barely even notice them. It’s only when that consistency is gone, and we find ourselves clicking angrily at a scroll bar that’s not behaving like we expect it to, that we realize something’s amiss.” Ivor Tossell, “Think you know how to use a simple scroll bar? Think again.” The Globe and Mail, Friday, Oct. 12, 2007 © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Compare this structure… © Parallax Communications 2007
    • With this one… © Parallax Communications 2007
    • And this one… all similar content types © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Some of the issues Programs described differently Different amounts and types of content throughout Redundant content within and across program content Inconsistencies in similar content © Parallax Communications 2007
    • How to resolve? Create a standard structure for that information type Identify where components are used Identify where content can be reused Specify how to write content © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Sample structure At a very basic level, it looks like this: © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Indicating reuse Usage information shows other places a component is used: © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Annotated sample © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Structure and content reuse Structure helps you to Create modular pieces of content you can easily reuse (even without CM), e.g., identical application procedures Create consistent content so the modules will fit wherever you want to use them © Parallax Communications 2007
    • How does structure help to write reusable content? It tells you what an information product contains It tells you where components are used It tells you how to write the components so they are consistent It increases usability Unstructured content is difficult for readers to follow, for authors to create and reuse © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Structure and format Structure and format are not the same Structure refers to how info products and content are put together Identical structures can have different formats Format refers to how content appears in its “published” form © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Writing to a structure Think of your structure as an outline The structure defines what you need to include But, you still have to put content into it © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Creating writing guidelines You need writing guidelines to support your structure Writing guidelines provide further assistance to writers Tells them specifically how to write a piece of content Writing guidelines help to make content reusable © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Could this be reusable content? © Parallax Communications 2007
    • What about this? © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Planning for reuse Reuse doesn’t just happen—you need to plan for it First, analyze content to determine where it can be reused Then, determine structure to allow reuse © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Sample structure with writing guidelines © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Content reuse and usability Reusing content alone doesn’t ensure usability Reusing unusable content makes it consistently unusable Need to determine what is usable and base standards on that © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Apply principles of clear communication Chunking Labelling Relevance Accessible detail Integrated graphics Consistency © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Common understanding Having a common understanding of the standards is critical All writers need to understand such things as: What constitutes a chunk How are procedures structured What terminology is appropriate © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Accommodating differences through chunking Reusable content can still accommodate differences Usage indicates what is mandatory and what is optional Components can contain as much or as little as required and can be broken into subsections © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Examples Eligibility: Eligibility Eligible businesses Ineligible businesses Application process Application process: Filling out the form Submitting it Getting help What happens next © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Accommodating differences through metadata Components within reusable content can be tagged with metadata to indicate where they belong Which information product Which product Which user © Parallax Communications 2007
    • Summary Information models define structure, they describe modules, what they contain, and where they are used Modules must be consistent Reusable content is based on standards that all writers follow Reusable content must be usable content Reusable content and structures can accommodate differences © Parallax Communications 2007
    • For more information Contact us at Parallax Communications: Pamela Kostur pkostur@parallax.ca 416.850.0636 Download slides at www.parallax.ca © Parallax Communications 2007