Helter Skelter

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Helter Skelter

When I get to the bottom
I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and turn
and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again!!!!

Ever get that feeling that you’ve been here before?

I write this blog post with haste as I’m halfway through the penultimate week of a particularly arduous project. Not only are we releasing a new version of the product, but we are completing the first major stage of our move to Author-it.

Overall the migration has been pretty painless. There are still some Word templates issues to work around and getting to grips with Variants has still to be tackled, but overall we are pretty happy with our choice. The only major gripe we have is partly our (ok, MY) own fault, and it’s here that I’ll offer the most valuable tip I can.

If you are migrating legacy content to Author-it (we were moving from Structured FrameMaker), make sure you thoroughly test and check the import settings. Time constraints had me rush this stage and we ended up paying for it, spending far too long cleaning up rogue topics than we had planned. Every cloud has a silver lining though, and it does mean that the documentation is now far more consistently written and styled than it had been. However, going through some 5000 odd topics by hand wasn’t the greatest use of our time!

Soon we will be looking to how we can leverage the output to provide better access to information, feeding into the developer community website we have already built, and improving how we deliver information alongwith our product set.

For the former we have taken some inspiration from the presentation by Rachel Potts and Brian Harris (Red Gate Software) at last years UA Conference, titled Delivering Help in a Support Portal. For our implementation the Publications team will take the lead, and it’ll be interesting to see where it takes us. Web 2.0, anyone?

We will also be looking to provide better online help by introducing Keystone Topics, as suggested by Matthew Ellison. Author-it should make these topics, which are the first topics the user lands on when they start the online help and which provide sensible links to common information (rather than just providing repurposed user manuals), very easy to build.

Two of the team will be in Cardiff for the conference this year so it’ll be interesting to see what we learn there and how we can really start to leverage Author-it in more and more powerful ways. I’m definitely keen to start innovating what we do and, in a few weeks time, we won’t have any further barriers to stop us.