IDBS Blog | 21st December 2011

“Why Isn’t That Documented?”

How we use Web 2.0 methodology so you’ll never say this about IDBS

In his last blog post, Chris Molloy highlighted reasons why accurate content is important. So when it comes to product documentation, getting accurate content is all there is to it. Right? Wrong! There is little point in having accurate documentation if no one can find it, can’t understand it when they find it or have to wade through unnecessary detail. Even worse is being left with insufficient detail and no means of getting it. Grrrrrr!

By asking customers a few simple questions – knowing their existing knowledge level, the level of detail needed, where they’ve come from or are going to next – we can identify the best strategy for giving them what they want and guiding them through the large amount of information we have for them. The easier it is for them to find relevant information, the sooner they return to do what they do best with an increased level of effectiveness.

Delivering content in a Web 2.0 world

It’s all plain sailing then? Well it could be if it wasn’t for technology. These days the boundaries between different content formats are not so much blurred, but virtually transparent. Hardcopy can be embedded inside web based content and links to web based content can be displayed in printed documents. Add in the arrival of smartphones, iPads, Kindles and other tablets and you have a myriad of platforms all with their unique browser or rendering characteristics. Next throw in changes to the way people access and use the available information – just think how often we assume things have touch screens when most things do not – and you have a serious mix of variables to cope with. Finally consider social media, which has many questioning whether their tried and trusted documentation delivery mechanism still cuts the mustard.

Having your cake AND eating it

We’ve implemented an approach that uses a consistent style, look and feel throughout, yet provides targeted access to only the information an end user requires. Additional information is easily available and links are provided to lead them to the next workflow step. In short, there is detail if they need it but no-one has to wade through that detail to get to simple help and guidance. The E-WorkBook Suite help includes videos, printable quick start guides and embedded sample files. Customers can even download and import them into their system to try things out and get learning.

Improving content through feedback

We believe that you ignore the future at your peril. Customer demographics, usage patterns and new technology all conspire to make documentation seem like a lumbering dinosaur in no time. Our ability to keep things up to date and relevant is significantly enhanced by regular and rapid feedback. To ensure we get this, we use an analytics application designed specifically for Technical Writers. It allows us to interrogate how users consume our documentation. Armed with this we can identify any pain our customers experience and implement solutions – fast. The beauty of this is that a solution may only require a redesign of the user interface or workflow and no documentation changes.

Not changing a document? Now that’s something I bet you never thought you’d hear a Technical Writer saying!

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