We’ve been on the road in recent days and weeks, visiting different documentation teams, and we’ve found there are distinct signs of change. In this post, I’ll look at how we’re starting to see the workflow for creating User Assistance beginning to change.
We found many documentation teams overstretched and starting to be asked how they could create content for new products that were coming along. Some organisations have decided they can only deal with this extra workload if they rethink the workflow for how content is created.
Catch, Cook, Plate
The traditional approach has been for the Technical Authors to gather the knowledge that Subject Matter Experts have and turn this into information. They then organise this information into a structure and publish it as content. One client called this process “Catch, Cook, Plate”.
Instead of this approach, some documentation teams told us they were looking at getting the Subject Matter Experts to do some of the “catching” – create more of the initial seed content that the professional Technical Authors could “cook” into something usable. This approach was happening with both API and user documentation.
This was prompting them to look at the tools they use to create content. Subject Matters Experts want an easy-to-use tool for creating content, and the Technical Publications team doesn’t want to be wasting time tidying up and importing Word documents. Some were looking for advice from us on which tools to pick.
Taking this approach, in many ways, turns Technical Authors into Content Strategists. It requires governance, editing, standards and other rules. It often requires a terminology management, metadata standards and taxonomies. It also means the different departments involved in the project, such as development, design, marketing and support, need to work more closely together.
What do you think?
Have you seen a similar trend? Is it a good idea? Please share your thoughts below.
- Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques 2 December 2013
- Introduction to Content Strategy – 1 day training course