Extreme documentation is an agile methodology for developing documentation in small to medium-sized teams in the face of vague or rapidly changing requirements.
Most people, including P&P practitioners, define P&P on a micro level, primarily because they have not considered other perspectives. Here are three perspectives about policies and procedures by which you can think, speak, and act in today’s workplace.
Defining quality means developing expectations or standards of quality. Standards can be developed for inputs, processes, or outcomes; they can be clinical or administrative. Unfortunately when it comes to documentation, many companies only focus on the standards related to time and accuracy. Quality standards should be in place for all aspect of the documentation development pathway—moving from planning, to authoring, to reviewing.
Many companies produce products on the cutting edge of technology but still publish documentation using old technology. At N.E.T., we develop our information with the goal of using the latest technologies; this includes using the Internet and CDROM as our primary modes of delivery.
The Windows Help utility is familiar as a tool to provide context-sensitive and procedural help for people using a software application, but it also a highly effective tool for providing many kinds of desktop-based training and support within an organization. During this session, we look at a variety of systems built using Windows Help and explore why this was a good choice for the particular project.
Kein Wunder müssen Technischen Redakteure die ganze Zeit Druckdaten aufbereiten, wenn jede Druckerei ein anderes Datenformat verlangt. Eine Lösung musste her. Ein Standard. Und so ist auch PDF/X-3 ein Thema in der Technischen Dokumentation.
Online help systems have evolved over the past 20 years to meet the needs of our users. Designers must consider the content, format, presentation, navigation, and access methods of online help systems. A series of design checklists based on the past 20 years of research are presented in this paper, which summarizes a journal article currently being considered for publication. The latest trend in online help system design is embedded user assistance, which includes integrating information into the interface and including an embedded help pane within that interface to display a context-sensitive online help system.
When I worked for a large insurance company, my team as tasked with re-designing the customer service area for a external Web site that supports annuities and mutual fund customers. I proposed redesigning the entire site including an actual help system (like with ones you can create with RoboHelp) to reduce customer service support calls. I was really surprised that everyone thought this was such a novel idea -- I thought it made perfect sense. Then, it hit me -- you don't see a lot of help systems for Web sites.
Designing a documentation library for the WWW requires understanding the unique capabilities of the Web and how they can be used to meet the documentation needs of customers. The Web is ideal for distributing information and interacting with customers, but certain considerations apply. Will you offer free Web access to manuals you normally sell? If you choose to limit library access to customers, how will you prevent unauthorized browsing? Do you want to use the Web to solicit readers’ comments? With the Web, you can effortlessly distribute new versions of documentation, but you must carefully identify each version to avoid customer support problems.
This article looks at a methodology for developing a software user assistance (UA) system in a structured manner. The software UA system could have both paper-based user manuals and online help systems.
Computerized Medical Systems, Inc. (CMS) has implemented an extensive online help system based on HTML for its FOCUS radiation therapy planning system. Netscape Navigator was selected as the browser because FOCUS is based on the UNIX platform and Netscape was the only HTML browser available for UNIX.
Developing a Windows online help system that clients can use effectively and bringing it in on time and within budget is a challenging task. You can dramatically improve your chances of success by doing the following: Develop help as sofnvae is being developed (and even before!); Chunk information for easy reading and to facilitate reuse by other writers; Create design and style guidelines to cut down peer review and editing time; Develop and use information webs to cut down on technical review time; Integrate the information web and the user interface to complete your help system.
A vast majority of documents (I consider print and online as documentation) often works to define the optimized error-free method of performing a task and provides a user with a straightforward solution. However, the user expects documentation to help solve problems and address errors. Thus, attention must be paid to potential problems users can have and how to correct them. Errors have different causes; the information designer should understand the potential types of errors since properly addressing each type requires a different approach in the design and documentation.
Preparing 'large-print' texts requires more than changing type size; it involves writing and structuring materials to meet the needs of an audience with varied physical challenges. For large print documents, format considerations include: using appropriate type, line length, and other design elements; setting all material flush left; and using lay-flat bindings. For braille documents, text may also need to eliminate or explain unusual symbols. Content considerations for both may include: replacement of graphics with descriptive text: brief orientation to the physical location and dimensions of objects; and reminders of help services. Cassette tapes offer one alternative to print or braille texts, plus serve other audiences.
People often have to create documents for different audiences and for different media, (e.g. web, Help, training). However, timelines and budgets for developing information are often tight. This means we have to find more efficient ways to develop information. One way is to consider single sourcing information for multiple users and media. While single sourcing does take more up-front planning, it can significantly decrease costs and development times once implemented.
What do we do when a legacy help system has trained the users not to use it? How do we design a solution that not only lures users back to the user assistance, but also encourages users to learn more about the product? This article follows the decision-making process of a design team that had to solve these problems. Additionally, the design team had to craft solutions for an application that imposed extreme limitations on those solutions, both in help system implementation and information design.
This paper presents three methods of user assistance: role models (simple demonstrations), guides (structured walk-throughs), and coaches (active assistants). After a brief introduction, potential uses, available development tools, and additional information sources are discussed for each method.
Manufacturers are currently grappling with determining whether they should put safety information on the Web and if they do how it should be presented. Technical communicators, Web content developers, and Web designers will ultimately be responsible for the presentation of Web-based safety information. This article discusses special considerations that should be given the formatting (HTML, PDF, etc.), design, (font, size, and color), and location of safety information on the Web. Additionally, areas for future research on the issue of Web-based safety information are identified.
Well-designed online documentation exploits the medium to make the content more accessible and effective. Knowing who needs the information and understanding when and how much of it will be used are essential for the creation of effective online content. Ideally, online documentation should answer each question with just the right amount of depth and detail. Considering user expertise, information needs, and usage patterns before creating the content or structure results in information that can be scanned, searched, surfed, referred to, read, or printed equally effectively—exactly what people expect from online documentation.
Manuals normally contain information regarding all the functions of a given product. Therefore, there are cases when information required by one user is useless to other users. As a typical example, for users, performing a version upgrade, the upgrading procedure is important, but the procedure for new installation is useless information.
Designing multi-platform online help can be made more efficient by placing special effort in the design of the development plan. If the development plan is broken up into four key elements the resulting multi-platform design will yield a great amount of latitude for both maintenance and future enhancements. During the demonstration we will discuss our use of these elements to design both online and hardcopy documentation to support both a mainframe and a windows interface.
Advances in technology in the last ten years have created an emerging category of portable online computers (Pocket PCs or PPCs) that offer a wide range of product features comparable to Personal Computers (PCs). Improvements in PPC hardware specifications and the growing numbers of compatible software applications are resulting in an increased (and multi-faceted) user base. Increasing technical capabilities, advanced product features, and a diversified user base are creating new challenges to design online Help systems that can satisfy user needs and requirements effectively.
The policies and procedures (P&P) developer must address more than format and style issues in designing policies and procedures information. There are at least five levels of design for policies and procedures information. Level 1 concerns the architecture in which the information resides. Level 2 concerns the type of relationship that exists among documents within the architecture. Level 3 concerns the approach used in designing and developing the information content within a policies and procedures document. Level 4 concerns the writing methods to use. Level 5 concerns the various writing techniques for presenting information in units individually and collectively within a policies and procedures document.
The responsive hypermanual is a new method of delivering documentation that orders the contents of an online manual in response to the user’s current task. It uses hypertext modules controlled by an SQL database for managing the development, and presentation of modular documentation to provide a uniquely usercentric system. their needs. When the user asks technical support for help, they delegate the effort of assembling material scattered throughout the document into a meaningful answer.