|Title||Pages||Last updated||Source format||Delivery format|
|Widget User Guide||400||2009||FrameMaker|
|Widget online help||400||2011||RoboHelp, but originally derived from User Guide||CHM|
|Widget Administrator’s Guide||800||2012||Word|
|Widget API Reference||500||2011||Wiki (many pages are stubs without actual content)||Wiki|
|Video tutorials||20 minutes total||2011||Camtasia||Flash|
A strategy for 2,000 pages is going to look very different than a strategy for 20,000 pages, so an order-of-magnitude estimate for page count is helpful. If you find yourself providing information about updates not by year but by month, that tells you that content is updated frequently. The update dates will also give you an idea of how much content is actively maintained as opposed to content that is static or rarely updated.
The source and delivery formats are interesting because they help you see what the status quo is. If 90 percent of your content is stored in a single authoring tool, your strategy looks different than if content is divided equally across four different (incompatible) tools. Often, the source formats reflect political divisions within the organization. The use of two competing, incompatible toolsets may be because of a merger (the technical content organizations never aligned their processes), a lack of collaboration (different managers chose different tools without consulting their peers), or simply different content requirements.
|Languages||What is translated?|
|French, Italian, German, Spanish||All technical content|
|Russian, Hebrew, Arabic||User guide and online help|
|Chinese (simplified and traditional), Japanese, Korean||API reference, user guides, and online help|
|(future) Greek, Turkish, Vietnamese||Planned for 2013: User guide and online help|
- Training materials (instructor guides, student guides, e-learning content)
- White papers
- Knowledge base articles (usually technical support)
- Videos with tutorials
Those dotted copy-and-paste lines represent hours of work. You could further refine the analysis by looking at the volume, frequency, and work required for each arrow.
|Task information from Widget User Guide||200 pages||Major new versions||Student guide for intro training||Save FrameMaker to Word, then copy and paste|
|Error messages in software source code||600 error messages and explanations (message plus one paragraph)||Yearly||Admin guide||Copy and paste|
|Product descriptions||10 sentences||Weekly||Proposals||Sales team has their own copies; check for updates occasionally|
|Basic tasks||30 pages||Twice yearly||E-learning content||Save as XML; import|
The preceding example would tell you that the task information for training and the error messages probably take a lot of time and should be high priorities for improved automation.
- Total volume of content (page count, topic count)
- Types of content (books, manuals, videos, help, web content)
- Update requirements (yearly, quarterly, monthly, daily?)
- Versioning requirements (do some documents have variants, such as customer-specific versions?)
- Language support (what languages is content translated into?)
- Source formats (in what format is the content stored?)
- Output formats (in what format is the content delivered?)
After reviewing the existing information products, you should have a list of content challenges and ideas for improvement. Here are some common scenarios:
- Reuse between technical documentation and training materials
- The training department uses reference and task information created by the technical documentation team, but the instructional designers copy and paste instead of linking because the two groups use different, incompatible content creation tools. If the two teams standardized on a single workflow, they could share content seamlessly and avoid lots of tedious reworking.
- HTML output is needed in addition to PDF
- User guides and reference materials are delivered as PDF files with hundreds of pages. Readers, especially the technical support staff, would prefer HTML content because it provides a better search experience and faster access times.
- Technical content is outdated because of inefficient updating process
- The book production process—generating tables of contents and indexes, checking pagination, creating change page logs, and similar tasks—takes a significant amount of time. As a result, books are only updated twice a year. But the product is changing quarterly or even monthly, so the technical documentation is almost always out of date. Readers are complaining about the lack of synchronization between the product updates and the content updates.
- Better content sharing is needed between technical content and technical support groups
- The articles in the knowledge base and the information in the technical content often overlap or contradict each other. The groups creating that content need a system that enables sharing of information.
- Content does not meet readers’ needs
- Content is poorly written and organized, not appropriate for the audience, or both.