Ever wanted to just throw everything away and start over?
I’ve been tempted by this notion recently and, whilst it may seem a bit ill-conceived, part of me does wonder what would happen if we just, quietly, started removing some parts of our documentation.
In fairness, we’ve done that in the past. Our Development Kit has many aspects to it but, applying that old favourite 80/20 rule, we realised we didn’t need to maintain or even publish documentation on every single function point.
One of the reasons for the current line of thinking is that, quite simply, we have too much information. There are too many places to find information about our product, so we are refocusing and slimming down our offerings to make it easier for our customers.
This is a change of direction for us. When I first joined this company, to start building a team as there were no technical writers with the company when I joined, I inherited a lot of legacy documentation, not all of it particularly useful (my oft quoted example was finding one single page of documentation for a particular Tool in the Development Kit. One page for an entire tool packed with functionality, that you launch in the same manner as every other Tool in the Development Kit, which told you … how to launch the Tool. Useless much?). The challenge on joining was to improve the quality and coverage of the documentation.
And we’ve been very successful! We have a rich set of information available, but over time it has, as it always does, started to degrade. We have added more and more and, whilst we have consolidated where possible, the pace of product development here means we are usually hanging on to the coat tails of the next release.
So, with some changes to responsibilities and a shuffling of resource we are now in a position to take stock and start removing content and completely overhaul the structure of what we deliver. That will help improve findability (our main aim) and by focusing on the content that is really needed we can improve the quality as well.
It may also mean a change of authoring tool to support the outputs we want but more on that, later.