Does your help content need a makeover?

makeover_beforeYou know what it’s like when you’re pregnant—you suddenly notice pregnant women everywhere.

After I wrote my last post about reader-engagement (tabloid style) people seemed to be muttering about ‘readability’ wherever I went.

Over coffee, Judy told me about her postgrad students who struggle with their writing. They have trouble getting to the point. She encourages them to reveal their findings up front and points out that a thesis is not a whodunnit. Good advice for a tech writer too.

Later, my friend Lil described the reports she writes for her parliamentary committee. She wants to reduce the reader’s cognitive load and is experimenting with ways to make sure the important stuff gets read. Yes.

So why is #readerengagement trending? Because, across the board, there is too much content. The competition is fierce and we need to battle for the audience’s (increasingly limited) attention span.

Of course, technical communicators are at the frontline of this skirmish.

To make matters worse, our content has gone ‘social’. It’s out every night getting Googled, getting shared and generally tripping the light fantastic. It used to be that a screenshot and a numbered list were enough. Not anymore. Now, it’s all about fluffy cocktails and Manolo Blahnik high heels.


Marketers recognise the social potential of our instructional content—it increases traffic, builds communities and sells products. So it’s time to bring in the stylists and make sure our content is useful and compelling.

I did an extreme makeover on a help topic (using some ideas from my previous post).

It looks ok on the desktop (IE and Chrome) but I’ve no idea how it will look on mobile devices. To lay it out, I used Positioned Text Boxes in RoboHelp 10. Foolhardy?

Let me know what you think.


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