In the third post related to the Udemy Course I’m taking on Project Management for Technical Writers, I’ll explain in my own words a strategy introduced in one of the modules, aimed at structuring content and organizing tasks logically using mind-mapping tools.
Note: You may want to read previous posts I wrote about this course:
How to Structure your Content
There are three main steps you can follow to structure you content:
1 – Identify which procedures and concepts must be explained in your technical guide
- To create a complete list, think in terms of the “problems” that your users might have, and which information will they need to solve them with your software. Remember: each task should guide your readers through an end-to-end process.
- Use “How to + verb” or “To + verb” or a gerund “Verb + ing” as a title for the task, as this is probably what your audience will search for. Example: How to open an account online (in the context of a banking app).
- Try to define the tasks in a consistent way: although it is not always possible, all tasks should look similar and have a similar duration (if you have tasks that take 5 minutes to complete and others that take two hours, you should rethink the way you split up and organize your content).
- Finally, compare your list with the goals you agreed upon with the stakeholders in the content development plan. Is there anything missing? If so, where should you include this information?
2 – Organize the tasks in a logical sequence
To do so, you can use mind-mapping tools, like:
- xMind (by the way, I love their slogan “Ideas Grow on Trees” – Kudos to their UX writer/Marketing department)
This kind of tools allow you to cluster and classify the tasks you identified in the previous step. Mind-mapping can be applied into various areas, from task classification, to identifying dependencies to create cross-references, links and “see also” references, brainstorming new ideas or assigning tasks to writers depending on their competencies and availability.
You just need to create a central idea (e.g. user guide), paste the tasks and start organizing them in a logical way and identifying dependencies.
3 – Replicate the new structure with its dependencies in your authoring tool
Add supporting concepts next to the high-level tasks you organized in the mind-mapping tool. E.g. videos, additional information in the form of concepts, examples, embedded tutorials (ideally created with e-learning authoring apps like Articulate or Pendo/WalkMe)
Add reference topics (tables, lists of parameters or properties) at the end of the guide.