Standardization in technical documentation takes place on different levels: the content, the structure and the layout of documents. Information models and other practical concepts aid the implementation.
Consistent wording and style increase the intelligibility of text and, thereby, the quality of manuals and the online help. Linguistic standards become most relevant in companies where several authors work on the technical documentation. Standardization rules are the prerequisite for documentation departments to create manuals or modules in content management systems as a unit. The emphasis shifts from the individual styles of the authors towards editorial guidelines. The rules are documented in an editorial guide. Copy-editors can check if the rules have been implemented correctly. An automatized check can be performed by Controlled Language Checkers.
For the structure of the technical documentation, it is necessary to comply with normative and legal demands, but also to define a suitable structure for single modules.
In XML documents, there are information models incorporated in the component content management system which predefine a structure. Among the most common XML information models are DITA, DocBook and PI-Mod. The structural rules are defined in a DTD (Document Type Definition). There, it is possible to determine elements for the whole document, from the structure of chapters to the level of sentences and words. The aim is a consistent technical documentation and the compatibility and modularization of content in a component content management system. The implementation with an XML solution offers benefits. However, also for technical documentation departments without component content management system it is feasible to develop standardized structures and to consistently implement them manually.
The Corporate Identity is very often predetermined by the marketing department and should be adopted for the layout of manuals and the online help to deliver a coherent image to the customers. All other elements of the layout, such as the appearance of safety notes, are standardized as well. Technical editors consistently utilize defined layout templates for the whole technical documentation. Again, an XML-based component content management system proves very helpful, but is not a must. Rule-based layout definitions can be realized to create standardized publications, both with simple DTP tools and with XML-based component content management systems. A consistent layout may be implemented within the scope of formatting capabilities such as style sheets and paragraph formats.
We create editorial guides, develop concepts for links and the navigation, and implement a useful modularization and a successful reuse of information modules. That way, with Single Source Publishing, we successfully prevent redundancies during the creation of technical documentation.
We can help you to develop sensible standardizations and adapt information models.
With these standardizations, the quality of the technical documentation increases and the costs for translations are reduced drastically.