Content Strategy: How Long is This Gonna Take?

It’s the very end of the month (a leap month, no less! I had an extra day!) and I’ve got a cou­ple of projects I want to post about, but they’re still in progress. So, instead of some per­son­al cre­ative or DIY stuff, I want­ed to post about some­thing more work-relat­ed for me. From the very begin­ning of my work as a tech­ni­cal writer, I described my approach to how I see my doc­u­men­ta­tion work being used as fol­lows:

  1. Imme­di­ate: tool tip, pop-ups, hov­er info in your IDE. 
  2. Quick answer: F1 on what a dia­log field val­ues are or a function/method
  3. Long answer: search the docs and poke around until I find my answer
  4. Learn­ing: Inten­tion­al read­ing, in the order pre­sent­ed, if the doc­u­men­ta­tion

Lev­els 0 & 1 both start in soft­ware or code and end there. This has the least and next-to-least inter­rup­tion to your work. The answer is imme­di­ate­ly when you need it or just a click & scroll away.

Lev­el 2 is often back and forth between docs and soft­ware. This inher­ent­ly can feel tedious. Often, this results in not even find­ing what you need (unless you were look­ing for frus­tra­tion). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is also where a lot of prod­uct help leaves you.

Lev­el 3 is sole­ly in the docs. You’re no longer per­form­ing your pri­ma­ry goal or job func­tion. This was not so com­mon for new employ­ees or employ­ees who just got a new tool in the work­place at one time. It feels like a rare lux­u­ry today, though. Too many work­places pri­or­i­tize keep­ing pro­duc­tive day-to-day over mak­ing their employ­ees pro­duc­tive in the longer term.

So, what’s the point? Lev­el 0 & 1 should be the goals, but they require sig­nif­i­cant more plan­ning and coor­di­na­tion with prod­uct devel­op­ers and UX design­ers. And, if we’re being hon­est, mak­ing Lev­el 2 work effec­tive­ly is going to require some of the same. And if you’re writ­ing man­u­als like any­one has the time for Lev­el 3, you’re shoot­ing your­self in the foot for all of the oth­er cas­es.

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