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Users' Advocate: Structured Content and the Needs of the User

TechWhirl WebsiteTechWhirl Website United StatesPosts: 396 admin

imageUsers' Advocate: Structured Content and the Needs of the User

Mark Baker transitions to an upcoming series on structured writing, by exploring the underlying conflicts in structured writing and user-centered content.

Read the full story here


  • christianlyonchristianlyon Posts: 1
    edited March 2015
    As a technical writer AND TRAINER I've seen the missing link and it's a goal-oriented design. The best structure is one that understands all the possible goals of the most common " personas" . Personas is a design term, and goal-centered design can be applied to documentation and should be. No one wants or needs to explore information outside the context of the goals they want to acheive. The trick is understanding and getting agreement on the unique (and honest) goals of each major persona, from management to senior vp, to operations and end users.
  • mbakeranalectambakeranalecta CanadaPosts: 53
    Thanks for the comment, christianlyon. I agree that a focus on goals is important (I tend to use the world purpose, but it is substantially the same thing).

    There seem to be two major fallacies about users goals which hold tech comm back from supporting them effectively. The first is the idea that we can know them so precisely that every goal can be addressed by a simple step by step procedure (the reductionist view of structure). The second is that we cannot know them at all and so must stick solely to describing features.

    The truth is very much in the middle. We can't define goals precisely enough to write a procedure for every occasion, but we can know the broad class of goals of our target users and provide material that supports those goals effectively.

    Of course, it is also true that our users do not always form or understand their goals completely before they begin work, and often do not understand how our product supports their goals. These things prevent them for honing in immediately on an immediate piece of information that provides a complete solution to their goal. The user has to navigate to a complete understanding of their goal and a complete understanding of how our product supports that goal (an iterative process). We can and should understand the relationship of our product to our user's range of goals to provide content that helps them reach that understanding and organize it in a way that supports that navigation.
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