Are You Still Typing and Clicking or Have You Moved on to Swiping?

Oh no…. Also in the new year the topic portable documentation and – you already guessed – apps will be a big influence in the area of technical documentation. Now portable documentation does not necessarily mean swiping but

  1. I could not refrain from this word play as a reply to the blog entry on keyboard control of my colleague Sebastian Göttel, and
  2. Portable documentation only makes sense when it puts the possibilities and peculiarities of the end devices to good use.

The more technical aspects and requirements for documentation on smart phones and tablets have already been discussed by me here last year. At conferences as well as in forums and blogs in the last months the respective ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ have been dealt with at length so that I only would like to repeat the mantra here:

Portable Documentation is More Than a PDF on a Smart Phone

The presentation, the interaction and the linking with further information is essential. The main form of interaction for these devices is the swiping. The presentation as well as the linking with other data can be realized most efficiently with tailor-made apps.

Some may reply: This is a consumer market phenomenon; we are dealing with the B2B sector, however, where documentation is still read on the desktop (or printed). But here, too, more and more of the customer’s employees use either a smart phone or a tablet provided by the company. Or BYOD (= Bring Your Own Device) is applied – another trend in IT: You use your private portable device quite naturally also for business (which, by the way, is a nightmare concerning data security – but that is a different story).

As far as you provide your customers with documentation in electronic form, the output will most certainly be to a portable end device. You can and must decide, whether the customer likes to browse your information or whether he curses it every time (which admittedly cannot only be prevented by a perfect presentation and interaction, when the content alone makes you want to cry).

What you need is an app. So it is a good thing when your own content management system in addition to the 42 other formats can also produce apps at the push of a button. Of course for all relevant platforms. But be careful: Badly done apps – and an app created at the push of a button for a text written for PDF production, must be bad – are more embarrassing than helpful. Without adequate preparation of the information with interactive and media elements (pop-ups, animations, rich media, …) as well as a pleasant design the consumer will at best be induced to yawn loudly.

On the other hand apps that are appealingly realized and efficiently designed for the information demand can mean a big image boost for the company and contribute significantly to customer satisfaction. However, time, money, a competent partner and an adequate software support is needed to implement this.

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