1. Adapt for complex scenarios Some procedures are straightforward while other procedures include a lot of "if this, then that" situations. If your documentation needs to explain a complex procedure, make sure you account for all of those variations.
In his book The Checklist Manifesto - How to Get Things Right,"Atul Gawande showed us how simple it is to deal with complex processes, and consistently perform operations correctly. Just use a checklist. And we agree with him. If you want to increase productivity at work, you need to create checklists for how to accomplish tasks. This will not only serve as helpful reminders for you when you're performing tasks, but it also makes it a lot easier to delegate tasks and get consistently good results.
I've done a lot of service projects in my life, and I've found that about 80% of the time, way too many people show up. It's not that there isn't a lot of work to do, it's just that whoever is in charge isn't organized in a way that they can utilize all of the available resources - lots of manpower, little direction. In fact, it often turns into 15 people walking around watching the person we were supposed to be serving, doing all of the work! That's not very helpful. So when my brother Trevor and I accompanied a group to New Jersey to help out with the Hurricane Sandy cleanup effort, I was shocked by how well we were utilized! Our group of 128 was immediately put to work, and able to help those who desperately needed it within an hour of showing up. Our productivity was dramatically increased because the group we went with was organized.
We have been talking a lot lately about the importance of providing road maps for our customers. As we looked at our own customer education material we realized that while we offered a lot of documentation tips, we didn't have a clear guide that helped our customers establish and implement a successful documentation strategy. Some customers were able to piece together a complete strategy from the articles we produced, but to do so they had to bounce around to a lot of different places.
Too many people think of software documentation as a project they will complete as opposed to a process they will establish. Software documentation projects almost always fail. They fail to meet the real needs of users. They fail to provide up-to-date information. They fail to deliver real business results. The key to creating great docs is to abandon projects and instead establish a documentation process. I explain the details of how you can accomplish this in the short video below. The tips I share in this video are what our most successful customers use to make software documentation a key part of their business strategy.
Without clear goals your software documentation is bound to fail. Recently we have started thinking of our documentation in two contexts: Documentation that provides a road map Documentation that removes roadblocks
Do you answer yes to any of these questions? Is your customer support group inundated with repetitive requests for the same information? Are your employees clamoring to find out the details of your company’s new policies? Do you need to efficiently and effectively train new clients on the use of your product? Do you need to train your employees on the technology products you use to run your business? Managing knowledge bases without an easy way for groups of people to access them can suck productivity out of your business. If your customers and employees are constantly scrambling to find the information they need you need to consider the hidden power of an online manual. Online manuals centralize all of your pertinent data for specific groups. Whether it is a customer support manual, an employee handbook, a research guide, a lesson plan, an employee hiring test or a product tutorial guide, online manuals can solve your problems of distributing information to a large or small audience. Compare this to what a lot of organizations are doing - locking their knowledge in PDF and Word files. Capturing your organization's knowledge in these formats makes that knowledge hard to access and hard to update.
We have all experienced the frustration of wading through wordy, unclear documentation, just trying to find the information we needed. For some reason some authors believe that we need to know the life history of an application before we are allowed to do anything with it. We created this video to show what life would be like if GPS units treated us the same way. Enjoy!
A question was recently posted on Twitter, "@donmcallister @podfeet opinions on what problems are best solved by/use cases for Mac apps such as ScreenSteps, Screenflow, Skitch, others?" We get that question a lot. We answered it in depth in a webinar we did last year titled "Video, Screencasts and Still Images - Using the Right Tool at the Right Time." But for those who are interested in a shorter answer, here it is. These are some simple rules that we use.
I read two articles recently. One article highlighted the technical communication work of a six-year-old while the other was by a professional journalist for a major online publication. One example communicated information clearly and concisely. The other talked in abstractions. Can you guess which was which? Anne Gentle of Just Write Click showcased some technical communication work from her friend's 6-year-old daughter. The aspiring instructional designer created a step-by-step guide showing how to create a Play-Doh apatosaurus. When you look at the results you might notice something - there are no words, just pictures.