Once again, I enjoyed immensely Madcap Software’s MadWorld conference in San Diego.
This was Madcap’s second annual conference, building on the success of MadWorld 2013.
One of the main benefits from single sourcing is the ability to reuse existing content. Different departments can avoid duplicating work, which means they can save time and money.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to quantify these savings before you move to an authoring or content management system that enables you to single source. Analysing all the existing documents in a business can be overwhelming, which means often organisations only quantify the savings after the single sourcing content management system has been implemented.
There are a few software applications that can help you analyse your existing content and determine how much duplication exists. You get a sense of how much time and effort was wasted in the past, which is a pretty good indication of how much waste you’d avoid in the future.
At this week’s London Agile Content Meetup, Lana Gibson of the Government Digital Service (GDS) outlined how they use Google Analytics extensively to check and improve the user journey on the GOV.UK website. She said GDS treats this analytical data as the voice of their users – with GDS needing to interpret it and provide what we, as UK citizens, need.
Lana said they need to see what content is getting the most traffic, so that they can ensure that the most popular content is of top quality, and is prioritised within the site.
One of the key actions analytics have enabled them to do is improve the connections between different but related needs that were already on GOV.UK. She showed the example of the page views to the “Make a SORN” page. The number of views increased by 70,000 in a month due to them simply adding a link to this page from the car tax related links section. Previously, SORN information wasn’t mentioned on the car tax page.
She also said they treat searches on the GOV.UK website itself as an indication that users haven’t found what they’re looking for first time. As an example, she said by looking at search terms she discovered lots of people were searching for information about taking rest breaks at work, and that they’d omitted that from the page about an employee’s contract and working hours.
Another example she gave was they’d found, on many of the pages about passports, people were searching for “second passport”. This was by people wanting to apply for a second passport. GDS has identified this as a topic that should be added to the site.
Lana said they also optimise the pages based on the language their audience is using. They found having the most important keywords in the title or first sentence helped people find information quickly. GDS uses analytics, Google Trends and Google AdWords to help them understand what terminology people use. For example, she said they found out their page on annual leave needed a better title: users were actually searching for “holiday entitlement”.
Finally, she said they also use the data to determine what to leave out. If a department wants to add new content to the site, they can use analytics to help assess if there’s actually a need for this content.
Lana’s presentation has been summarised in two excellent blog posts on the GDS website. They are well worth reading:
There’s a wonderful German word, die Weltanschauung, which roughly translates as a view of the world. It suggests there is a framework of ideas and beliefs behind people’s descriptions of various things in the world. I was reminded of Weltanschauung at this week’s London Agile Content Meetup, where Rahel Bailie neatly summed up some of the different views of content, content strategy and single sourcing.
CMS Wiki described baked content as “pages that have been generated by a Content Management System, but then moved to a static delivery server, which can serve them at high speed and high volume”. The word “baked” is used, because this approach means you cannot separate the content from the format afterwards. They are baked together.
“Fried” content is where the Web pages are built “on the fly” when they are requested by the end user. Rahel used the example of frying eggs: if you put too many eggs into the frying pan, you can always remove one. Fried content may take a little longer to generate than baked content, but this approach enables you to personalise and filter the content. It also means you can present the information in different ways, depending on which device a person is using.
COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) is another way of describing single sourcing content.
“COPE through technology” is the view that the content is essentially data that can be managed through software. If you need to create a personalised or filtered view of the content, you get a developer to create that version. If you need to create a mobile-ready version of your site, again you get a developer to do this. Content is often created by completing forms, in order to create structured information.
“COPE through authoring” is the view that the writers can do all of the fine-grain manipulation of content. If you need to create a personalised or filtered view of the content, you get the Technical Author to mark up sections for those different conditions in the content itself. To quote Rahel, “You can then run a transformation script run, which compiles the content into its final form, and uploads the content to the Web CMS, or other publishing platform, for consumption and presentation.” The advantage of this approach is it stops you from being tied to a technology or application. The disadvantage is it relies on your writers being able to mark up and structure the text correctly.
It’s important to be aware of these distinctions when you talk about content, content strategy and single sourcing, because your Weltanschauung may not be shared by the person you’re talking to.
We’ve been asked to a find candidates for a fabulous permanent vacancy at one of our clients.
You need to lead and develop their vision of the role of User Assistance and content. This means treating content as a function of design (and user experience), with the appropriate information provided to users at all points during the customer journey. Your role will be discover and incorporate the best ideas and practices from other leaders in content creation into your team.
In effect, this means they are looking for someone who is currently:
You can work in Buckinghamshire or in Cambridge, and you can work part of the week from home if you wish.
For more details, see:
We’ve been busy bees recently, working on some new elearning courses that we plan to be introducing soon. Shortly, we’ll be offering an online course on DITA Fundamentals, and another on Content Strategy. Both courses have been written and are at the User Acceptance and Testing stage. Of these two, you’re likely to see the DITA course released first.
There are two more online courses in the pipeline, which we hope to release at some point in 2014. One relates to policies and procedures, the other to elearning/screencasting.
Our intention is to offer basic courses online, and advanced courses in traditional classroom format. Where there’s demand, we’ll also use Google Hangouts to deliver the advanced courses to overseas delegates.
One of the kind things people were saying to us at the tekom conference last week was they enjoyed reading our free illustrated guide to DITA. Indeed, we’ve been bowled over by the response to this mini graphic novel and the number of people who have downloaded it.
Again, this guide takes the form of a graphic novel:
It’s free, 14 pages long, and it’s published under a creative commons licence. MOBI and EPUB versions will be available shortly.
Let us know what you think of it.
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.