From manuals and tutorials to knowledge bases and help systems, consumers rely on technical information — and the writers who produce it — to help them get the most value from the products they purchase. Only now, the list of formats and channels in which they expect to get that information has grown to include chatbots, voice-activated assistants, virtual and augmented reality, wearables and other IoT devices we don’t even know about yet.

For technical writers, keeping up with these rapidly emerging technologies means taking a different approach to content. For example, while the need for longer, complex documentation will always exist, newer technologies require quick chunks of information that can easily be reused across projects, personalized content tailored to each user, and content that’s ready for publishing on any channel and device.

“Writing content for emerging technologies like chatbots and IoT requires robust tools designed to facilitate creation and publishing of content,” said Rohit Bansal, senior product marketing manager for Adobe. “While desktop tools like Adobe FrameMaker and RoboHelp have been around for many years, they continue to be the solutions of choice for technical communicators because they make it easy to get the right information to customers as technologies and channels change and grow.”

Here are three ways you can use modern desktop authoring and publishing tools to make it easier to create and deliver the technical content your customers want and expect. 

1. Reuse Your Content

According to a study by AIIM (registration required), 79% of organizations say they have too much single-use content. Modern technical communication tools can help by allowing you to develop intelligent content that can be reused across various versions of your documentation. More and more organizations are using Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) to create micro-content in an intelligent way, which also helps them keep content consistent across marketing and technical documents.

DITA is an XML-based open standard architecture that separates content from formatting, making it easy to publish to a variety of channels — from PDF to emerging technologies. Unlike Word, which creates a static file, DITA creates an XML file with semantic tagging that keeps your content flexible and consistent, it facilitates sharing of content across the organization, and ensures your content is scalable.

Adobe research (registration required) shows that 75 percent of technical communicators either use DITA, or plan on adopting it in the near future, placing it far ahead of other XML standards. We also found that the biggest benefits organizations gain from DITA are document consistency, ease of updating and maintaining content, content reuse, and easier publishing to multiple formats.

2. Let Readers Choose What’s Relevant

When it comes to technical content, one size doesn’t fit all. While some might want to know everything about what a product can do, such as reference information and procedures, others might just want a quick start guide or information about how to solve a particular problem. But creating multiple versions of content for every product, audience and platform is inefficient and wasteful.

With dynamic content, you can help users focus on what’s important by allowing them to self-serve personalized content simply by checking the kinds of content they want to see. Tools like Adobe FrameMaker & RoboHelp allow you to create filters based on region or role that serve up this dynamic content to different formats and devices. For example, users in different regions can choose to view content only applicable to their region by clicking on a country filter. Or audiences can view a customized Table of Contents or index by choosing their role, like sales person, or software developer.

You can build these dynamic sets of content by assigning attributes such as audience, platform or product to drive conditions. Let’s say you have a document that describes two different vehicle models, and you want to provide information to help people make the best decision on which to buy. Each model allows you to configure the seats, which vary between models. Whereas the base model lets customers change seat temperature using one-degree increments, the advanced model is more precise with half-degree increments.

Learning Opportunities

With dynamic content, you can create all of the content for both models in one place, and then provide users with access to content filters that help them find what they need faster. They can click on their desired model and see only the seat configuration information that pertains to that model, switching between models as they continue their research.

3. Create Once, Publish Across Channels

Whether they prefer reading through a printed manual, or clicking through mobile apps, users expect to access technical information in any format and on any device they choose. To help streamline the publishing process, today’s technical communication tools offer single-source publishing across channels and formats without requiring writers to wade through pages of code. That means you can create XML content once, and then publish to many formats, including responsive HTML5, mobile apps, EPUB, WebHelp, Microsoft HTML Help, and even printed documentation with just a few clicks.

For example, one company that provides software solutions for public transportation helps providers like railways and bus operators publish timetables in both print and electronic formats. Using a single data source, they can quickly output content in many layouts and formats, such as online trip planners, mobile apps, printed timetables, arrival/departure boards on station platforms, and printed pocketbooks. They can also reuse content as well as customize each piece to the needs of their users.

Single-source publishing also allows for more streamlined content updates, as you can make a content change in one place, which then automatically updates all instances of that content, saving you valuable time.

Ride the Wave of the Tech Comm Revolution

As new technologies continue to move technical communication into uncharted waters, technical writers need to be ready. And if you’re using desktop tools like Adobe’s FrameMaker and RoboHelp, you’re one step ahead of the game. By reusing your content, allowing customers to choose what they want to view, and using a single-source solution to publish across channels, you can work smarter and faster, speeding up the time it takes to deliver new content to users, while saving costs on localization and publishing.

And when the next wave of the Tech Comm Revolution rolls through your organization, it will be smooth sailing.