Ensuring consistency in the message and content can ensure your message is received the same way across every media platform it is published through. That’s where implementing a content management system (CMS) comes into play. Making the change from unstructured content to a CMS helps companies provide more effective content development, content management, process management, technical translation management, and publishing strategies while reducing cycle times and increasing productivity. They can also help your company create more effective multilingual and XML management, greater flexibility and performance advantages that will optimize resources and processes. Once you have your CMS, what can you do in terms of reuse to gain greater control of your message?
Technical communicators often cringe when they hear talk of using XML to write their content. Despite all of its benefits, XML may be perceived to be overwhelmingly technical for writers who are used to authoring their content in MSWord. If you are one of those writers who fear XML, keep reading. We’ve provided three tips to help you better understand XML and ease your anxiety:
Technical communicators play a key role in keeping an organization’s customers happy. As a primary touch point between the company and the customer, the content you produce and deliver can make customers feel comfortable and satisfied about your products and services when it is accurate and easily accessible. On the other hand, it can frustrate customers and send them to your competitors when instructions and information aren’t clear and helpful. The experience a customer has when using your content can make a big difference in their loyalty to your company.
Two weeks ago, we had the pleasure to attend the 2013 Best Practices Conference in Savannah, Georgia. The program presented the most interesting presentations, making this the best of the Best Practices ever. Here, we recap a few of the excellent technical writing tips as shared by some of the presenters at the conference. While some of these tips may seem like common sense, we often need a reminder of the obvious:
One of the hardest things to do is to get people to move from their comfort zones. When you begin to implement your content management strategy and move to structured authoring, you will likely see some resistance from a few writers who will say, “That’s not the way we’ve always done it!“ Ah, change! It can bring out the stubbornness in some people and make their boss’ hair turn gray as he drags them, kicking and screaming, into the new work environment.
Technical writers sometimes feel like the ugly step-child. They have too much work, and there’s never enough staff to do everything that must be done. And, the work was needed yesterday! In some organizations, the focus is placed on the engineering and marketing of the product, but the technical documentation is merely perceived as an afterthought. Since technical documentation is a cost of doing business rather than a revenue generator, it tends to get the small end of the budget stick.
When writers create content that will eventually be translated into many different languages, they must really focus on more than just good grammar, clarity and spelling. There are a lot of things we say in the English language that doesn’t translate well – or doesn’t translate at all – into other languages. For example, acronyms and slang phrases usually don’t work so well when translated. Americans can relate to being out in left field, but people in countries where baseball isn’t popular won’t understand it.
So, you’ve implemented a component content management system and you’re on your way with topic-based writing and content reuse. But there are still a few writers who just can’t seem to follow the same writing style as everyone else. They always seem to do something differently, causing problems when other writers must reuse their content. Here are ways to get better cohesiveness between the writers:
We often hear people say that they are going to implement a component content management system (CCMS) with the expectation that it is going to solve all of their problems! While a content management system can solve many problems, the system is only as good as what goes into it. For example, if you put poorly structured XML content into the system, it cannot magically make well-formed XML; you will have problems. It’s the old “trash in, trash out“ syndrome. But there are things you can do to prepare for a smooth content management implementation: