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The new product design and sales model provide some
interesting challenges. The most interesting
challenge, from a technical documentation perspective,
is that the users' interaction with the product varies
dramatically based on their roles and job duties. It
is unacceptable to ship a document that describes
screens and functions that the user cannot see or use.
and Mike asked:
Why is it unacceptable? (Just curious.)
and I reply:
A major business goal for the project is to provide
users with a unique, highly customized product
interaction. This business goal also applies to
documentation. As I mentioned before, a user's roles
determine what they can see and the functionality they
can use. After much discussion we concluded that the
documentation should only describe those things that
the user can see and use.
We had the opportunity to test the validity of our
conclusion with users. In the past, their interaction
with our product documentation had been less than
satisfactory because they had to filter out a lot of
information that did not relate to their specific
jobs. They strongly supported the idea of customized
documentation for each user. Thankfully, this is
possible with XML and we will be able to give our
users what they want.
Customized interaction with software is becoming more
and more common. It's my belief that customized
documentation will also become more common. We already
spend a great deal of time structuring documents so
users can quickly access the information they need and
get on with their work. It isn't that big of a leap to
structured documents that are completely customizable
based on user experience, roles, licensing, etc. Heck,
why not let users build their own documents? I'm sure
someone is already doing that, somewhere.
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