With the advent of digitalization and Industry 4.0, we need to determine what kinds of information products are required to align with new technologies and processes.
Our company has a proven track-record in advising a wide range of companies, including multinationals, SMEs and start-ups. We bring a unique understanding of the challenges facing businesses and institutions in relation to the creation, translation and publishing of information, and can add significant value to your activities.
We help you to streamline your authoring, translation and publishing processes, and can also advise you on the most appropriate tools and technologies for your projects. This can include XML-based content creation and publishing where appropriate. The potential cost savings are considerable.
Use your resources wisely
Many Swiss industries are facing skills shortages, but some companies still expect highly skilled and well-paid employees to create content. The problem is that they were hired for other, specific reasons – their core skills and experience – and the content they produce is often sub-optimal and sometimes of poor quality, especially if they have had no training in creating documentation.
What are the real costs of content creation in your company?
Sometimes it’s appropriate for experts in your company, for example engineers or developers, to create the basic content themselves. Our Developmental Editing service is a pragmatic solution that enables the employee to get back to his or her main tasks as soon as possible.
When it comes to creating user assistance products, like user guides, technical experts are rarely the best people to perform such tasks. Most of these employees can’t empathize with typical end-users, and often don’t have the right level of linguistic or authoring skill to create high-quality content.
However, if it really makes sense for the employee to draft the content, and he or she is happy to do so, our coaching and mentoring services provide other options.
Creating and maintaining high-quality content is expensive and time-consuming, so it needs to be treated as an asset.
Many companies are naturally divided into departments, with each department creating its own documentation – R&D, production, marketing & communications, HR, training, and so on. This can develop into a situation where there are “silos” of information, and therefore content silos. This situation can result in incoherence and inconsistency across the various kinds of published content.
Today, we rightly think in terms of the “customer journey”, but we can’t predict the path that each user will take from their unique starting point. If their first stop is the Web – which is probable – we don’t know which link they will follow. Perhaps their main interest is in detailed information on your products – in that case, if they see a user guide in PDF, they may click on that, or on a technical specification.
So it’s in your interest to ensure that information about your company and its products is coherent and consistent, and this isn’t just about terminology or style. There’s also the issue of branding and customer perception. Poor information products – whether incomplete or badly written –create a negative impression, with a potential loss of business revenue.
Both the content and presentation of your documents therefore need to be of high quality.
We can help you to get started in developing a unified content strategy for your company. If you then need help with implementation and training, we work with an expert consultancy based in Europe.
Principles of Content Strategy
Adopting a content strategy results in benefits to both your company and its customers, and especially the end-users of your products or services. We can therefore speak of “customer-centric” and “user-centric” content. There is a strong emphasis on the context within which information is developed, and we can speak of a “holistic” approach to content creation.
It’s also important to think in terms of an information architecture. This addresses mainly how content is structured and published within a given work environment. However, it also relates to the practices embedded in the policies, processes and technologies established across the company. Its goal is to achieve consistency in all your online and printed deliverables, whether external or internal.
Equally important is content design. This goes much further than typography and layout, whether for online or printed information, and is related to information design.
We can also consider content modelling. This echoes the principles of the Information Mapping method, where each module of text is classified into one of seven types of information. A module addresses one topic and includes only one type of content. A collection of modules constitutes a map, hence the name “Information Mapping”.
Lastly, it’s important to bear in mind that content strategy defines where you want to go, while the relatively new area of content operations enables you to get there. This activity is strongly linked to governance and time-to-market.
Make sure that you have the right level of awareness in your company of the factors described above, as well as the buy-in of stakeholders – both management and employees. This is vital!
The two most critical aspects of any document – whether online or printed – are the content (text and other elements) and its presentation. For your document to achieve its objective, it’s essential that both content and presentation be optimal. Our skills in typography and layout, coupled with world-class content, help to ensure high-quality results.
Developing modular content
We develop business and technical content as self-contained modules of text using the Information Mapping method. This approach has many advantages, including the possibility to re-use content in other documents. And it’s not just limited to user documentation – it’s also great for developing policies and procedures and other internal documents.
Designing for online content – on a variety of screen sizes – requires additional expertise in responsive design techniques and user experience (UX). The principles we use to create effective online content are included in our Copywriting for the Web course.
Although content-creation and publishing technologies are evolving rapidly, there are many principles and standards that remain valid when developing and publishing content, whether for print or online.
Documents as “devices”
It’s essential to be pragmatic if you want to attain your business objectives. This means considering documents as devices. A beautifully written document is worthless unless it achieves its objective – whether that means selling more products, enabling customers to use your software, or publishing a compelling White Paper.
If you want to create English-language content for international clients or employees, you need to define your target audience(s) very carefully. This includes not only the level of English used, but also cultural differences. Your audiences can then be divided into personas.
Our experience in translation and localization can help you to ensure that your English-language documents are optimized for translation.
Using Global English ensures that your content is optimized for non-native speakers. It enables you to ensure a high level of clarity and consistency in user and technical content, leading to faster, clearer and more accurate translations.
Unlike Simplified Technical English, Global English doesn’t impose severe restrictions on vocabulary or grammatical structures, and so it’s suitable for all kinds of end-user documentation.
We use Global English for all content destined for a multi-lingual audience in Switzerland, or for products and services intended for use in other countries.
Re-use of content
Different kinds of content require different styles of writing, depending on their purpose and audience. However, re-use is clearly an option if you’re developing, for example, user guides and training materials. Both types of content contain procedures. Other examples include standard company texts that are published on multiple platforms.
We develop all business and user/technical content as self-contained modules of text, built from “chunks” of information that can easily be re-used, and this results in highly effective, user-friendly documentation.
Standards and processes
Achieving excellence requires putting in place standards and processes, because it’s only by implementing iterative processes (draft, review, correct, repeat – and eventually QA) that high-quality results can be guaranteed.
Another vital aspect of content creation is terminology. If you don’t standardize words and phrases – and their specific meaning in your company/industry – this will cause serious problems when your content is translated.
A valuable tool for applying standards in authoring and editing is the style sheet or style guide. This can range from a one-page style sheet listing basic style decisions – for example British or American spelling – to the twenty-five-page style guide we created for a major Swiss pharmaceutical company.
The presentation of your content is crucial. Your text will only have the maximum impact if the typography and layout is of a professional standard. This is an area where we can help you!
Alphadoc doesn’t operate as a recruitment agency, but can provide contract resource in partnership with a registered Swiss company in this area, in conformance with Swiss labour-leasing laws.
We can provide valuable support to clients in the recruitment of specialist employees in the area of content creation and publishing – in any industry sector. This can include reviewing and filtering applications, interviewing candidates, and making recommendations on selection to management.
Talk to us about your open position before you begin the recruitment process. Our work isn’t just focused on matching job applications to the required skills and experience; we also take account of the important “soft skills” that ensure alignment with the company culture.
We have provided recruitment support to many Swiss companies.
While the hiring process is proceeding, we can provide ad hoc support to keep things moving.
If the successful candidate needs to improve his or her English-language writing skills – whether for communications or user documentation – our Task-based Coaching and Mentoring services can help in the onboarding process.
We recognize that content creation is not always a continuous process – for example, when the documents are in the review cycle – so we strive to provide just the resources you need, according to the rhythm of your project.
Do you need someone to work on-site in Switzerland, or are you open to working remotely with a UK-based professional, with visits to Switzerland – or videoconferencing – for meetings and briefings where required?