By MaryLee Grant
As an information development professional, I get asked a lot of questions about new technologies; recently someone asked me, “What is dynamic publishing?” Dynamic publishing means different things to different people. It can mean downloading and printing a PDF on-demand, or searching through a document for a particular topic of interest. These two methods require extra effort on the part of the reader to find the information they need; not a very good customer experience. I believe that what dynamic publishing is really all about is “topics on demand” that get you what you want, when you want it, and in the format and language required. That sounds great, but how is that dynamic and any different than searching using Google?
The dynamic aspect comes into play when the customer can search across the full information set for the specific topics they are looking for, and that information is presented to them on any device they have – be it a smart phone, tablet, eReader, computer, etc. Information developers today want the ability to write the information once, and have a Web front-end automatically determine what device the customers are searching from and systematically render the information in a format made for that device. The customer experience is vastly improved, and the information is provided to the customers in an elegant and flexible manner.
At this point, the next question I am usually asked is “To get that flexibility, doesn’t that mean I have to create a separate style sheet output type for every device? Who has time for that?” In this scenario, the Web front-end determines what device the customer is using and in what language, and then serves up the information in a format that is optimized for the device. In addition, it should only deliver the information that answers the question that was originally searched. DITA XML makes this part easy, as you can break down questions into topics with answers. A good way to determine what questions to write about is to use one of the many tools available on the Web to mine Google information to discover what your customers are searching on. The “questions” with the most hits should be the ones you start developing into topics first.
Remember, the ultimate goal of dynamic publishing is to only deliver the information the customer is requesting in the format and language needed. To minimize the information, make sure you are only answering one question per topic. You cannot rely on a customer to read a previous topic; each topic must be standalone, and can have links to other topics of interest.
Similar to the way cable TV has incorporated movies on demand, I believe that the information development industry should move to the “on demand” methodology. Customers expect to get the information they want, when they want it in other industries, and it is time for the information development community to follow suit. Embracing this new approach allows a customer to use any device, anywhere in the world to get the critical information they need. This new-found dynamic information will result in higher customer satisfaction and engagement, and everyone knows happy engaged customers are what we all strive for.
This article includes contributions from Laura Clymer.
About the author(s):
MaryLee Grant is a visionary information development leader who pioneered the use of DITA XML, and championed the use of leading edge technology to enable topics on demand. An IT professional with over 25 years of experience she holds a BA degree in Computer Science from Ithaca College and is pursuing an MBA at St. Edwards University.
Laura Clymer is a creative and imaginative information development solutions architect and writer, who helped to lead the transition from unstructured content to DITA XML. She has over 16 years of IT industry experience, a BA degree from UCLA, a master’s degree from Stanford University, and is pursuing an MBA at St. Edwards University. She is currently a Senior Information Development Manager with Dell Inc.
This article was first published in The Dynamic Publisher website.