The information that a company distributes is never in a vacuum. Instead, it affects the content of many internal and external processes and, therefore, the content of user documentation in particular. If, for example, developers adjust the functionality of a software package, the interface also changes. Both of these aspects must also be replicated in the product documentation. So why not “simply” connect the two together, for example by coupling the CMS to the development process and using it as an analysis tool for content quality as well?
This was also the aim of Positive Technologies, a global IT company with its offices in London, Boston, Rome, Brno, Moscow, Tunis and Seoul. Tatyana Rodionova, responsible for Global Content Management and Localization at Positive Technologies, used this year’s SCHEMA Conference to demonstrate how the quality of content can be strategically improved using ST4 by employing it beyond only the content creation process.
The basis: looking at content quality strategically
Positive Technologies is a leading provider of Vulnerability and Compliance Management in the field of IT security. In addition to developing software and IT systems, the company also provides its customers with advice regarding these highly sensitive matters. One of the company focus is providing its product owners, the support team, sales team and partners with “Content as a Service”, i.e. by understanding content as a service, it is able to consider the quality of the content from an additional perspective.
The term service makes it quite clear that customer requirements are the priority of this approach. For Positive Technologies, three requirements have emerged: providing information in a timely manner, achieving a high level of accuracy and quality of the information and ensuring transparency of service. Meaning, how quickly information is available for the user, how high the quality of that information is and to what extent certain things are understandable and/or relevant to the user. Positive Technologies wants to ensure that these three requirements are met before content is produced and distributed.
The first step: transferring the content to ST4
Positive Technologies introduced ST4 back in 2016 with the aim of using it for user assistance documents in the conventional sense. After an eight-month introduction phase and one-year’s active operation, Positive Technologies had already determined significant efficiency improvements in terms of content creation and localisation. With this, the first step towards improving speed and quality had already been taken.
In order to benefit from the full potential of ST4 and to continually meet customer requirements, Positive Technologies is now using ST4’s functions in unconventional ways.
The second step: Coupling CMS content and UI texts
The information that ultimately becomes part of the user documentation is moved between four teams as it is processed. This affects the software interface terms to a great extent:
- Firstly, UX designers create mock-ups – detailed drafts of a website or application – and release them.
- UI developers then use these as a basis to develop an interface (user interfaces). These UI developers use the Mosaic library for this, which is based on Angular and supports JSON as a format for storing UI content.
Note. Mosaic is a library of UI components based on Angular, contains matching controls that share a single color palette, measurements, hotkeys, animations (that was hard, trust us), behavior, and validation.
- The third stage sees the technical writers create the user documentation, while the fourth stage involves localization engineers, who ensure that the content is localised into various different languages.
All four teams must therefore handle the same information across various system boundaries. Tatyana Rodionova’s team thought this sounded just like an automatic reconciliation using a single source database.
But first, let’s take a brief look at ST4: With ST4, you can obviously store terms for interface elements in a variable and then have these translated. And the variable file can be exported as an Excel or XML file. These file types are, in essence, very easy to process further.
However, as the UI developers at Positive Technologies use Mosaic, they require a separate solution to enable them to automatically reconcile the UI terms, as Mosaic works with the JSON data-interchange format, which is not compatible with XML or CSV.
For this reason, Mike Ozornin (UX designer) and Oleg Ulyanov (UI developer) from Positive Technologies developed a special adapter to convert XML and CSV formats to JSON and vice versa. The effect is that Positive Technologies can synchronise the ST4 variables with the JSON files and retrieve the JSON files with variables as resource strings in ST4.
This allows the content that moves between the UI developers and the technical writers to be used and reused consistently and therefore meets the customer requirement for quick availability. At the same time, Positive Technologies has been able to increase the amount it reuses by 50%.
The Positive Technologies adapter is available free of charge at Github.
Three-stage quality control and automated error tracking with ST4
In order to deliver high content quality, Positive Technologies naturally uses standards and style guides when creating content. However, the mere existence of and even the most stringent adherence to the rules do not always lead to the desired quality. So as to achieve this goal, ST4 offers various reporting functions to check quality.
Positive Technologies uses a three-stage process for quality control:
- A “self-check” for the technical writer, using the ST4 “Generic Report” function and the Content Check in ST4 with Schematron and Regular Expression rules. With the Generic Report function, Positive Technologies runs a self-developed transformation script for the desired nodes and issues the results in exported files.
Some of the Schematron rules for the self-check can be seen here:
- A linguistic and cosmetic review performed by technical editors using Slim or DocuWeb Client from ST4.
- Function test by subject matter experts also possible using Slim or DocuWeb Client from ST4.
All errors detected by the quality control are automatically collected into a “Content Quality Profile”.
This makes it easier for Content Managers to decide when to release the content.
And the figures prove the success of these measures: 70% of the content linguistic and cosmetic check list is now carried out automatically, with overall efficiency increases for the technical editors of 50%.
Last but not least: transparent estimates for customers and companies
Positive Technologies uses our CCMS for cost and expense estimates as well. In order to estimate the cost for a documentation project, for example, the information classes are analysed using a further Generic Report. This allows the technical writers to see at the touch of a button how many nodes are assigned to a specific product and how to use this information for cost estimates.
In the short time since introducing our CCMS, Positive Technologies has worked intensively on using ST4 in a way that is profitable for all parties involved. In addition to the self-developed tool for a single source database, they primarily use our reporting functions. This allows them to continually meet their requirements and those of their customers in terms of the quality of their content and services.
Having 18 years of experience in user assistance and 9 years in software localization, Tatyana is in charge of global user assistance and localization services at Positive Technologies since 2016. Previously she managed a huge Technical Writing & Localization team at Kaspersky Lab with a portfolio of more than 40 projects localized into 39 languages.