Nov 11, 2012 Ξ Leave a comment

Planning your structured writing project – an overview

posted by Tenneti
Planning your structured writing project – an overview

Moving to DITA or structured writing involves a systematic approach to convert legacy feature-oriented text into topic-based content. In traditional documentation, you focus on each manual or book separately. However, in a structured writing implementation, you need to focus on content reuse and all the topics as building blocks.

Determine the users and their information needs
Your audience analysis and profiling earlier focused on each book or deliverable such as user manual or installation manual. In addition to defining the demographics of the user, you need to identify the conceptual information needs and task needs of each user. Depending on the types of users, you must have already listed the concepts and mapped them to the needs of the audience as part of your audience profiling.

Determine the list of tasks
Once you have identified the various scenarios of task needs of all the users, compile a list of tasks – removing any redundant tasks that are common to various users.Your catalogue of tasks and their relationship to various users should be exhaustive and cover every detail about the effective usage of the product. Use cases can also be helpful in this scenario where you might want to get the best practices and also add them to your list of tasks. Any procedure that helps the user achieve the primary goal of product usage should be included in this list.

Identify the typical process workflows
Link the users and their tasks to establish possible operational workflows. Design documents prepared by the system architects can be used to determine the most effective process workflows. Wherever information is missing or gaps are obvious, you must meet the architects and understand their perspective of the system. Though user interface design is not a writer’s job, you can discuss the importance of ease of use of all the various features available in the system. Hence, it is helpful for the writer to participate in the initial design meetings wherever possible to determine the process flow and relate it to the user’s information needs.

Establish relationships among topics
Not all procedures precede tasks and contain tasks within them. Regardless of the users, it might often be necessary to include concepts within tasks and tasks within references. Establishing such a hierarchy where the relationship between various types of hierarchies is identified will help in the later stages of documentation where the writer needs to gather in-depth information.

Design topic groups to provide dynamic help
The process workflows determined along with the topic relationships help you arrive at topic groups and map them to the user’s information needs. Topic groups help you in leveraging the traditional context-sensitive help systems and drill them down further to help the user at each and every stage alongside providing information regarding related tasks and most probable next steps to use the product. Moreover, user-centric help systems designed these days are not relegated to any particular kind of user. You can encourage users to define the components of the help system that will let achieve their goals. A robust single sourcing content strategy should address these needs and aid users with dynamic help content regardless of their profile.

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