Single-source documentation (was TW and grad school -Reply)

Subject: Single-source documentation (was TW and grad school -Reply)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- AXIONET -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 21:33:56 -0500

Linda K. Sherman said:

> Formatting that looks good in a book is rarely best for
> online viewing, searching, etc.--or vice versa.

I agree with the first part of this statement, but I am less sure of the
"vice versa" part than I sued to be.

This heresy began when I started to design paper documents with on-line
production in mind. Suddenly, I noticed, clients became more
enthusiastic about my paper manuals.

I have a couple of possible theories about the reasons:

1.) The problem isn't that paper and on-line manuals have to be designed
differently. Rather, the perceived difference is due to the fact that,
culturally, we're more forgiving of poorly designed paper documents.

2.) No matter what medium you present a manual in, what readers want
remains the same: basically, to scan and find information quickly. A
document that allows efficient scanning on paper will also be easy to
scan on-line.

I'm grappling with trying to form some principles of single-sourcing,
and these two thoughts are my first tentative steps in that direction.

Any comments on these possibilities? Are there other possibilities I've
missed?

--
Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
(bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com) (604) 421-7189 or 687-2133 X. 269
www.outlawcommunications.com (redesigned and updated 07 Feb 1998)

"So in the spring of the year, we took the fleet,
Every cask and cannon and compass sheet,
And we flew a Jacobean flag to give us heart;
While Pitt stood helpless we were waiting for Bonaparte."
--The Men They Couldn't Hang, "The Colors"




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