2 min read

An Exciting New Way to Reuse Technical Documentation

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Many of you who work in technical documentation are familiar with tools and technologies that generate multiple outputs using single-source content strategies. Solutions for content reuse and multi-channel publishing have been around for more than two decades. And while the most common formats, PDF and HTML, are still very valuable for knowledge base, support tools, and product documentation, if you work for a software company, video has become a must-have requirement for training, sales, and customer enablement.

The challenge is that existing tech doc solutions have no answer for video when it comes to software. The need is similar, i.e. in a world of agile engineering and continuous software releases, keeping both documentation and videos up to date is an imperative for customer experience. DITA and other markup models are widely used for producing “how-to”, reference and other documentation. But not for software videos that can automatically stay up to date with each software release. Until now...

Back in 2017, Daniele Procida gave this great presentation to the Python user community about a Unified Documentation framework. In the picture above he recommends how to think about different types of software documentation for different purposes. It’s also very relevant to video, as different “types”, such as tutorials, how-to’s and explainer videos are also critically important to your customers.

As far as training goes, while there have been a few attempts to integrate technical documentation and training, (e.g. the DITA for learning specialization), most software companies do not reuse technical documentation in educational materials. Historically, this was because tech doc tools could not produce content that was considered engaging and interactive enough for online/self-paced eLearning. Hence the use case for single-source learning content with software companies was heavily tilted towards instructor guides, student guides, and performance support materials.

But what started as a slow shift away from classroom training (as recently as 2018 almost 50% of all training was still classroom-based according to the Association for Talent Development), in a post-COVID world software companies need to make all content digital and more video, not less is needed. And while screen-recording tools can be used, they simply do not scale from either a time or cost perspective as the rate of software releases increases.

Customer education is also seriously challenged to produce more content to address a learner’s five moments of need, another framework that is relevant to consider when thinking about software videos. Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson have defined these “5 Moments” as the time when someone needs to:

  1. Learn something new
  2. Learn more about what they’ve learned
  3. Apply what they have learned
  4. Unlearn in order to relearn because of change
  5. Solve a problem

With Videate's new way to create software videos, we can now align the Unified Documentation and Five Moments of Need® frameworks and exploit your existing investment in technical content. A simple way to look at what we have built with Videate is a new type of “publishing” solution for software companies. Videate creates videos just like authoring tools can currently create a PDF or HTML output today. We can start with DITA, AsciiDoc, or Word and transform your content automagically into high-quality videos for tutorials, how-tos, and explainer demos. Tech doc teams are now in a great new position to demonstrate the huge value of their well-structured content to client success, sales, and marketing.

Documentation or Videos? Tutorials or How-to's? No problem if you combine your tech doc solution with Videate.


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