Piece by piece

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Part way through April and the discussions and planning over the past few months look like they are, slowly, starting to come together.

The plans are ambitious, not only are we restructuring our information offering to make things easier to find, we are also attempting to change the way we document our product. Moving us away from a set of information that covers “here is what our development kit can do”, to content that says “this is what our product does and how you can extend or modify it”. In one way it’s a subtle shift, but the ramifications are still unfolding.

One area in particular will be interesting, namely that we will be asking “why that way?” a lot more than we have in the past. In the past, as we were light on content in several areas, we steered away from such questions where we could, but now we need to tackle them head on which, invariably, will mean we will start to drive some interesting conversations about how our product SHOULD be used.

None of this is, as ever, rocket science, but there is a level of change management that we need to consider.

In the end we should end up with, in essence, an information matrix.

Down the left side will be headings corresponding to the types of content we have (or need to write), and across the top will be a list of the areas of the product we document. I say “will be” because we are still trying to fully understand what those areas are, and to make sure that the terminology we use will be understand and used consistently across the company. Once that matrix is in place, we can audit what we have and see where the gaps are.

Thankfully, once we understand the new structure, the act of restructuring the information will be easy. The joys of single source, topic based authoring!

I won’t, however, mention the third level of complexity we are trying to tackle as I’m not quite sure I’ve got a handle on it yet. Suffice to say that we need to make sure the new information structure we decide on within the product documentation, also needs to fit into a wider piece that is being introduced to our developer community website (same basic idea though, creating landing pages on ‘topics’ or ‘product areas’ to direct users to product documentation, elearning material or support notes).

It’s a bit like doing a big jigsaw and at the moment I’ve only just managed to finish the outline.