B. Developing a Publications Department

On-line Documentation Considerations

Producing documentation for on-line presentation involves different concerns than printed paper documentation. This section briefly discusses some issues you need to take into account, but it is by no means comprehensive. See Appendix A, "Recommended Reading," for books that deal with this subject in depth.

Many companies are turning to on-line presentation of their documentation so that customers have easier access to their documentation, to save on printing and production costs, and to provide searchable linked information. If your company is considering such a move, be sure to research presentation and usability issues thoroughly.

Many issues arise when moving from print to on-line documentation. They involve writing, content, and management concerns.

Writing Issues

Because printed text has existed for hundreds of years, writers and readers instinctively know how to use it. On-line text, however, is new and constantly changing. People writing and using on-line text don't have the combined knowledge that comes from generations of experimentation and example. Guidelines for on-line documents are often incomplete, contradictory, or outdated.

Content Issues

    One typical strategy is to provide task or brief explanatory information on line, and more in-depth or background information in print.

Management Issues