Consulting on technical documentation, software documentation, and online documentation

As an expert and service provider in technical documentation and software documentation, I offer you the following consulting services:

Conceptual design of new technical documentation

I develop concepts for clear, user-friendly user manuals, online documentation, and help embedded into the user interface of a product.

Your needs

Have you developed a new product? Do you need some user documentation, such as user manuals, online help (online documentation, help site), or screencasts (software videos)?

My services

Based on detailed user analysis, I can develop a user-friendly and cost-efficient user assistance and documentation solution for your product – from the underlying didactic concept down to the detailed structure.

As an option, I can also implement the designed technical documentation, or I can assist you in doing so.

Do you need a documentation plan at all?

Can’t professional writers just start writing directly and let the documentation “evolve”?

Yes, they can. But it will ultimately take longer and thus be more expensive.

  • Many decisions need to be made during each technical documentation project. You can make each decision either as part of a prior documentation plan or you can make the decision “on the fly” only when writing the text. It both takes the same time.
    So, up to this point, there’s no gain in developing a prior documentation plan – but there’s no loss in time and money either.
  • Many decisions are mutually dependent. Therefore, some of the decisions will need to be revised as part of the process.
    If you’re working on a plan, you can revise a decision quickly. Revising the decision costs nothing: All you need to do is to change your mind. If you’re working on the actual document, however, revising a decision can be costly. You must change everything that you’ve produced so far. The more you’ve written, the more it costs.

Now guess what’s safer, faster, and more cost-effective!

Questions that a documentation plan should answer

A sound documentation plan doesn’t have to be very extensive, but it should at least answer the following key questions:

  • Needs of the target group
    What do your clients know already? How do they work? What are their main goals and tasks?
  • Other imperative aspects
    What fundamental restrictions must be taken into account, such as deadlines, budget, frequency of updates, and translation requirements? Does the documentation have to fit into a group of existing documents? In the case of software: Which operating system is used, which programming language is used, and which browsers are available on the users’ computers? In the case of software on mobile devices or operator panels on a machine: What’s the screen size? Is there a mouse and a full-featured keyboard available or a touchscreen?
  • Information types
    What types of information do your clients need? Basic conceptual information, reference information, or step-by-step instructions? Do you need to communicate general domain knowledge as well as specific application knowledge?
  • Media
    Should you provide a printed user manual (PDF), or context-sensitive online help, or both? What information should go into the user manual and what information should go into the online documentation?
  • Documents
    What documents should you provide? Should you put all information into one document or should you supply several user manuals for specific purposes and user groups?
  • Help formats and context-sensitive help calls
    Which help format should you use? Plain HTML (WebHelp) or a special help format? Can context-sensitive help calls be implemented? Who assigns the required help IDs: programmers or help authors?
  • Navigation
    Which navigational devices will you provide within your documents and online help systems? Where will you provide links/cross-references, and where not?
  • Structure
    How should your document(s) be structured? Which chapters/topics should you provide?
  • Production
    Which authoring tools should you use? Can these tools cover all the requirements needed today and in the future?

As an option, a documentation plan may also include a sample layouts and a basic prototype.

Review and improvement of existing documentation

As a service provider and contractor for technical documentation, software documentation, and software user assistance, I optimize user manuals, online help, and screencasts. I can analyze your documents both from the users’ perspective and with regard to the creation process and work out concrete suggestions for improvement.

Your needs

Have you already created some technical documentation (user manuals, online help, screencasts) for your products? Are you not quite satisfied with the current documents? Or are you unsure whether your current printed documentation or online documentation meets all the requirements? Have there perhaps even been any complaints from users or have you noticed large numbers of support calls related to specific issues?

My services

I can analyze your documents both from the users’ perspective and with regard to the creation process. I can then work out suggestions for improvement. In most cases, the key weaknesses can be identified quite quickly so that the review does not take much time.

As a result, you either get a written report of the analysis plus a list of suggested improvements, or I can present the results in person. In case I present the results in person, we can add a discussion and define a concrete implementation strategy.

Continuous consulting throughout your project

As an expert in technical documentation, I can provide individual consulting on the questions specific to your project. The consultation can consist of either a one-off workshop or an ongoing consultation throughout your entire project.

Your needs

Do you write some technical documentation or software documentation and are looking for advice? Or do you already have some existing user manuals and help files that you want to revamp?

My services

Organized as a workshop, I can provide you with the necessary know-how, and together we can work out solutions to your individual questions. You can benefit both from my long-standing expertise and from my unbiased view of your project from the outside.

Depending on your requirements and questions, the workshop typically takes one or two days.

If you’d like, I can also continue my support for some time after the workshop and provide continuous feedback on how to further optimize your documents.