How the Web Designs Information

John Carroll, in Nicky Bleiel’s recent interview in Intercom, suggests that there has emerged a theory that the advent of the Web means that information does not need to be designed anymore:

I do think that techniques like crowdsourcing and search have caused, what I think, is a radical position that there is no need to design information anymore because it’s so abundant. We can rely on the crowd and search, and between the two we’re going to be able to generate such wondrous amounts of information. read more

Write for people who actually read documentation

One of the biggest mistakes we make in technical communication is trying to write for every user.

Sacrilege, I know, but hear me out. Many users don’t read documentation. They don’t not read documentation because the documentation is bad, or not written for their level, or uses big words. The don’t read documentation because they are the kind of people who don’t read documentation. It is a fixed part of their character and their outlook on life, and nothing you can do with the documentation will change it. read more

We Must Develop Topic-Based Information Design

There is a lot of talk in tech comm today about topic-based writing, but very little about topic-based information design. This is a problem, because, in the age of the Web, and particularly of the mobile Web, topic-based information design is essential.

Topic-based writing is often perceived (and practiced) as nothing more than writing in small, potentially reusable, chunks. As such, it says nothing about what kind of information design those chunks will be assembled to create. Often, such topics are assembled to create books, or, sadly, the monstrosities I have dubbed Frankenbooks.  Seldom are they used to create something that a reader would encounter as a usable topic — that is, a sufficient treatment of a single subject of interest. read more

Introducing the SPFE Architecture

Today, I am announcing the launch of a new website, is a site about the SPFE architecture for building structured authoring systems. Why would the world, need such a thing when it already has DITA? The site will attempt to answer that. Why have I spent the last 15 years or so working on what I now call SPFE? That I will try to explain here.