Technical Communication: 10 Top Trends Enterprises Need to Know
Structured Documents Are the Norm
These documents use some method of embedded coding or markup to provide structural meaning according to agreed upon organizational structures or schemas. They provide benefits such as content reuse or single sourcing. Global enterprises, for example, use structured documents to reduce the costs associated with producing documents in multiple languages.
A Big Shift to Single-Source Publishing
Single-source publishing allows the same content to be used in different documents and has become increasingly popular as enterprises have had to produce multiple relevant deliverables, such as technical manuals, help systems, knowledge bases or eLearning content. Single sourcing is helpful for vendors who OEM products and provide white-label documentation or when content is pulled in real time from databases, XML files or content management systems, for example. Structured document practices support single sourcing.
Multichannel, Multi-Format Delivery Adds Complexity
As more and more multimedia digital devices come into use, enterprises need to find ways to capitalize on ubiquitous content delivery through multiple channels. Paper manuals and electronic help files have their place, but they are being replaced by online documentation that can be quickly updated to reflect software updates and customer feedback, for instance. Though PDF is seen as the means for exchanging information interactively, multichannel delivery focuses on providing customers with content that can be consumed through the channel of their choice: print, PDF, EPUB, HTML, CHM and so on.
Mobile Delivery Is Expected
Today, customers want content to be available to them anywhere at any time. Content delivery to mobile devices calls for considerations beyond content formatting and modality. Reduced screen sizes and limited connectivity impose new considerations on content consumption. Yet many enterprises simply continue to deliver electronic versions of print manuals.Â Responsive Web design, for example, focuses on delivering HTML via a single implementation that adapts to the size and orientation of the viewing device. Enterprises should consider providing the ability to publish to full PDF, to create dynamic Web experiences and to offer condensed versions of content.
Demand for Topic-Based, Content-Specific Help Is Growing
Educated customers have become specialists in the kind of content they want to consume. Rather than looking through an entire library of technical content every time they need to refer to a specific area of interest, they use search engines to significantly improve the "searchability" and "findability" of content online. But search results may not always reference the official source, leaving brands open to possible erosion. Using contextual help, businesses can provide faster results and deliver targeted and relevant information to their customers when they want it.
Customers Are Pushing for Multimedia Communication
Customers want to move away from traditional text-based communications to multimedia in its varied formsaudio, video, images, animation and interactive content. While multimediasuch as videocosts more to produce than traditional text, it can provide a higher return on investment through increased customer satisfaction and reduced support-related calls, thus cutting down on resources and frustration with a "system" or product.
Social Media Is Playing a Bigger Role in Direct Customer Input
Customers are no longer passively consuming content.Â Rating systems, commenting and discussion forums allow them to actively participate, optimize their use of or solve issues around their purchases. The official company Website is no longer the default source of information. Enterprises that provide social facilities for customer feedback through official channels increase the likelihood that customers will go to the official source for information, which will help build customer equity and brand loyalty. While social collaboration is not a substitute for quality content, it does provide a springboard for customers to help solidify existing content.
Reporting, Analytics Are More Important
Page view statistics are important to enterprises, but data such as search terms (including common misspellings), traffic patterns, frequently viewed content and more can be used to generate reports that provide companies with insight into what customers may have been looking for, and more important, what they couldn't find. These metrics let companies focus their resources on the more popular items to provide higher value to their customers more quickly.
Customers Want New Content Faster Than Ever
Customers increasingly expect content to be updated quickly, especially when it's available online. With single sourcing, automated workflows and efficient collaboration, companies can significantly reduce the time required to deliver updates. Single sourcing will reduce the costs of editing across multiple iterations of similar documents. Workflow processes will improve peer review and external subject matter consultation. Efficient collaboration processes not only will speed the delivery and notification of materials for review, but will also simplify incorporating review comments from multiple sources.
Adobe Technical Communication Suite 4
Adobe Technical Communication Suite 4 is the next generation of the company's complete single-source authoring and multi-device publishing toolkit for technical writers, help authors and instructional designers. The latest version of Adobe's suite streamlines the creation of standards-compliant technical content by leveraging native XML/DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) support. It also enables authors to make technical information widely accessible on iPads and other tablets, smartphones and e-readers by publishing to output formats such as multi-screen HTML5, ebook and native mobile apps, addressing the trends tech writers will face in the near future.