... and those are the reasons to why you should read Jonatan’s blog

In pursuit of the ultimate techCom information architecture

It is time to conclude on the purpose of my blog. What am I trying to say? What do I want to accomplish? What benefits will my blog bring to my readers? Well, read this blog post to find out.

First of all, my primary target group is technical communicators, working as information designers or architects, focusing on findability early in projects when planning and designing what type of information end users need and how to organize and classify content. My secondary target group are documentation managers, product and project managers interested in ways of increasing team efficiency and findability of end user deliverables. If you are using DITA or not doesn’t matter.

What am I trying to say? I’m trying to say that:
  • The traditional user centered design approach will make you fail. The traditional user centered design approach to identify what type of information to write when documenting a technical product, starts by identifying user groups and their tasks and responsibilities. Why is that not a good approach and what is a good design approach? Read previous and future blog posts about user tasks and personas. This statement is based on nearly 20 years of experience in the technical communication industry, where my findings are that the user centered design approach has a lot of uncertainties. There is a need to question the “old habits”.
  • You must invest in an explicit design methodology. In our world where global competition puts new challenges on content creation teams, you cannot afford wasting productive time due to unclear design rules and principles. An explicit, communicated and accepted design methodology will increase content creation team efficiency and allow you to meet your company market launch deadlines. Furthermore, my experience is that the technical communication industry is really lacking a robust design methodology. Did you say DITA? Hmm...
  • You must design for findability. Users of today are active and are searching for information. Soon (or maybe already), they will not accept documentation that is impossible to find answers in. Too many companies are still delivering large book and product centric manuals that nobody reads. To design for findability you need to understand the information seeking behavior among your users. My blog posts titled “How do you design for findability” give thoughts on how to design for findability. The advices are based on my ongoing PhD research about information seeking behaviors among users of technical documentation.

To design for findability, you must consider human aspects such as how users become aware of that they have an information need, how good or bad they are on expressing the need, how they select information sources, how they make decisions, how they judge relevance, when information overload can occur, when information is avoided (selective exposure), how, when and why users assimilate new information, how user characteristics such as age, gender, domain/cognitive skills etc affect search behavior and much more.

What do I want to accomplish? I want to raise an awareness of important aspects in the technical communication industry. I want to change your agenda. Have you reflected upon how you are designing end user assistance? What rules, principles etc are you using? Are they communicated to the rest of the team? Does the team understand and accept them? How much productive time are you spending on “design thinking”? How much time do you spend on briefing, informing, arguing, convincing, fighting your fellow team members, SMEs, project stakeholders etc about the design you have come up with? Do end users understand the logic behind your design? Do you?

What benefits will my blog bring to my readers? I hope that you will be questioning the way you are doing the design work today and start to actively look and ask for alternatives. Also, I hope my blog will give you new insights and new knowledge about how to be an effective technical communicator, especially when it comes to designing for findability. Do you agree? Send any feedback to jonatan.lundin@citec.com.

XML.org Focus Areas: BPEL | DITA | ebXML | IDtrust | OpenDocument | SAML | UBL | UDDI
OASIS sites: OASIS | Cover Pages | XML.org | AMQP | CGM Open | eGov | Emergency | IDtrust | LegalXML | Open CSA | OSLC | WS-I