centralizing product docs for the customer

Subject: centralizing product docs for the customer
From: "Pamela Denchfield" <PamelaD -at- onyx -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 16:13:19 -0700

I'm interested in hearing from those of you who display lists of product documentation on "splash screens" or other presentations that are more user-friendly than a folder structure on a CD or than an organized webpage. My small group is looking at moving in that direction.

We currently publish to CD, webpage, and an intranet (no print). The intranet also includes limited-distribution docs for the release. That's three separate copies of each set of documents, plus all the maintenance work required for the inevitable between-release revisions or additions of docs. And the customer or internal employee (like me!) who has to find a particular doc has to navigate a complex structure of folders. There is no central location other than the webpage, and discrepancies between the various copies of the published documentation sets have crept in. (This last situation can be remedied with a production checklist, I suppose, though I'd prefer a centralized scheme.)

We'd like to create and centrally store a user-friendly "container" that could be viewed from the CD, webpage, and intranet - in addition to the installation wizard, if possible. I'm visualizing this container as a smallish splash screen stored on our website server and linked to from the CD, webpage, intranet, and possibly the installation wizard. We're also reassessing which docs are actually needed from the CD. Maybe only a few or even none at all - which moves the customer doc access to the webpage only, plus possibly the installation wizard. I'm thinking there's a way to display a static splash screen if there is no Internet connection (probably not an issue for our customers - I'm researching).

Have any of you succeeded in centralizing your user-visible product documentation sets and the presentation of them, no matter where they're accessed from? Care to share your tips?

(who's now leaving the office for the day - I'll see your reply in the morning!)

Pamela Denchfield 
Sr. Technical Writer, Onyx
Consona CRM
E-mail: pamelad -at- onyx -dot- com
Direct: +1 (425) 250-5817
Fax: +1 (317) 249-1942
Visit: www.onyx.com 

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