|Design or automation?||Design||Automation|
|How much detail?||As little as possible||As much as possible|
|Assumed impact on revenue||A lot||None|
|Primary purpose||Persuade people to buy||Inform people|
|Writers are product experts?||No||Yes|
|Customer interaction with content is measured?||Yes||Rarely|
|Affects product positioning?||Yes||Yes, but not on purpose|
|When do people read?||Before buying||After buying|
The reality is not so simple. Some information products fall into a gray area between the two disciplines. White papers, for example, are full of technically detailed information but are intended to be persuasive.
Data sheets offer factual product specifications, but are generally used as part of the sales and marketing process. The purpose of a data sheet is to provide a potential buyer with specifications on a product so that the buyer can determine whether this product is appropriate for her needs. But a paper data sheet is not necessarily the best approach to this problem, especially if your product has a lot of possible configurations.
Instead, why not offer a web-based form that asks for some information, narrows the options down to a manageable number, and then lists those products in a chart for easy comparisons? Companies often have all of the information needed to do this, usually locked away in a printed or PDF data sheet.
Stash all the specifications in a database (in fact, the product design team probably has a database already). Then, create a web interface that allows the buyer to query the database to see which product makes the most sense for their requirements.
Enabling the buyer to “query the database,” however, does not mean giving the user a literal database query experience:
One powerful way of unlocking business value in your technical content is to rethink its presentation and its usage. In many cases, technical content has marketing applications, and by providing a more user-centered approach to the content, you can increase the value of the content.