Presented at DocTrain East 2007 Conference by Alan Houser, Group Wellesley -- Through effective task analysis and information modeling, organizations can maximize the usability of their technical documentation while minimizing the required development and maintenance effort. During this interactive workshop, students will learn the principles of minimalist documentation, how to perform an effective task and topic analysis, approaches to migrating legacy documentation to DITA or other information models, and methods for mapping content to pre-defined information types. We will also use software tools to assist in performing topic analysis. While this workshop will use DITA information models as examples, the workshop will provide value for anybody who needs to move to a structured authoring environment and improve the usability and maintainability of their technical documentation.
In many organizations, writers are judged by the volume of content that they produce. The larger the manual or help system, the more effective the writer. A fatter manual is considered to be a better manual.
From the users perspective, however, fatter does not mean better. There is no positive correlation between page or topic count and usability. Large documentation sets may be intimidating and are likely to present usability issues. Furthermore, higher page or topic counts mean higher maintenance, translation, and production costs.
The minimalist documentation strategy provides a way to design and deliver highly usable documentation while minimizing the amount of content that must be developed, maintained, and produced to support a product or service. The increasingly-popular DITA information architecture is based on the concepts of minimalist documentation.
During this workshop, we will learn the principles of minimalist documentation, and how minimalist documentation strategies meet both user needs and business needs. We will learn how to design minimalist documentation using the DITA information architecture. We will interactively experience the important prerequisite of task and topic analysis for creating well-designed, highly usable minimalist documentation sets.
We will also demonstrate the use of software tools to support topic analysis. In an interactive session, we will use the IBM Task Modeler to develop a task analysis for a product or service. The instructor will demonstrate how to use the IBM Task Modeler to automatically generate DITA map files and prototype DITA-based output.