Subject: Slapping
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 07:57:00 EST

Did anybody else catch the InterCom article about "slapping" hard copy
online? (I love the foreshortened use of the verb "slapping" to describe
this practice.)

The article, by Carolyn Coppola and Joanne Oakley, related a sequence of
events we've all known. They had a lot of hard copy, no time to develop
research-blessed online designs, so they slapped. They then endured
sleepless nights worrying about user receptiveness, only to find that users
were enthusiastic, almost wildly so, despite the numerous drawbacks they
both clearly saw in the online version. As they note, it was probably the
incremental benefits of online that thrilled users at first, although now
apparently their users are getting more restive as it becomes evident that
better delivery methods are available. You're only as good as your last
version, I guess.

We're doing exactly the same thing right now for a manufacturing client
who's been sending out hard copy catalogs for many years, done in
WordPerfect 5.1. Our first step is to move him to Word 6, clean up the text,
put it into tables, and so forth. Then, due out this fall, we're PDF'ing the
whole thing and putting it on a diskette. Granted, it's not breathtaking
stuff from our standpoint, but for the manufacturer and his reps, it's
awesomely advanced just to have a "find" function. Later plans include
optimization for the online version and perhaps a database along with
database publishing.

One thing we're doing that Coppola and Oakley didn't is planning for the
inevitable jading of the user. We know in advance that we'll have to top
last year's achievement, and indeed we make it a habit to predesign so that
we can implement tomorrow's neat stuff. Further, it lets us accelerate the
improvements if the client becomes sufficiently impressed by today's
results. For example, in our manufacturing project we're designing layout,
styles and capabilities so that we can either directly PDF the file, or we
can run it through a translator and create HTML. He's not wanting HTML yet,
but we're making sure that when his company's Web site is up he can get HTML
without hand-coding it.

So how have y'all approached this, if you have at all? Is today's techdoc
department way too burdened to even predesign?

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
FrameMaker support ForeHelp support
FrameMaker-to-HTML Conversions

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