Separate content from formatting and change your life

I am honored to have spoken this week at Scott Abel’s Tech Docs Roundup conference this week. The conference was at the top of venture capital row, directly above SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator.

PHOTO: View of laboratory at night.
A view of the SLAC end stations

This 3-day event was filled with talks surrounding content, and how to best deliver information to your audience.

My session focused on shoring up current content production practices as a means of free up time and budgets for additional projects. Basically, I told 3 quick stories:

My three main points

Favor content over formatting

It’s easy (and a bit of fun) to get caught up in the formatting and presentation of content. However, while pretty documents certainly help to carry the message, if your system is weighed down by desktop publishing efforts, it’s time to rethink your program. Take stock of your time spent formatting; if reducing your formatting time by 50% would save you more than $5k per year you should seriously consider a project address that wasted time and effort. I’ve helped clients reduce their time spent formatting by over 80%.

Follow your own rules

I manage a series of FrameMaker reference and workbooks, one which was inherited from Sarah O’Keefe, and two which were initially written in the 90s. I manage all three projects using a single FrameMaker template file, which I update regularly whenever I am revising a title. By using only a single file to manage my formatting, I can edit the content of my books (a total of about 70 chapters) freely and as needed. I only spend about 10% of my time on desktop publishing concerns, with the rest of the time spent writing and editing content.

Be open to patterns of content reuse

I worked last year with a software company that had managed to separate their content into at least five discreet channels. They initially wanted me to produce a series of training videos for their customer onboarding, but I soon saw two problems with their approach:

  1. Their proposed 20-minute videos would lock away their most important content, as well as becoming quickly outdated
  2. All their content was already available in other departments, but they weren’t sharing content between each other

Once I called showed them how well one of their silos (the corporate website) was chunking their content, I was able to convince them that using content marketing principles of content reuse would not only lift the burden of content creation, but would be far easier to keep up-to-date across the organization.

Can you relate to these stories?

I offer a fantastic FrameMaker Template Design workshop, and I’ll be starting a full run of that course on June 4th, 2019. The full run comes with online sessions each week to evaluate student template changes and includes everything I’ve learned over the years about creating comfortable and efficient FrameMaker authoring environments.

I’ve worked with every branch of the military, just about every aircraft manufacturer, and tons of other organizations from solo tech writers up to Fortune 50 companies. If you could use a more efficient FrameMaker authoring environment, I hope you’ll join me on June 4th!

Psst. Sign up any time before June 4th, and get instant access to the course material so you can get a head start on perfecting your own organizational template.

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