For those who have lived through the 90’s and early 2000’s,”shoot the book” may be a familiar statement. In Die Another Day James Bond aptly demonstrates “book shooting” by destroying a thick car manual which is supposed to instruct him about his latest hi-tech car.
That scene clearly echoed what I believe many people felt in those years about thick manuals and books. I saw many indications on Google that sales and readership were dropping and the media bemoaned the demise of the printed word. However a few companies changed all this drastically. Kindle and Apple and others re-wrote the story by inventing the hand-held device.
Fast forward 20 years and everywhere you look – in buses, trains, streets, restaurants, parks, cinemas – people are engrossed with their phones or tablets. While what they are reading may not always suit the taste of their family members, it is undeniable that today everybody is reading more. What this has done to the content and the style of presentation is quite another story though.
Let us consider specifically the operating and maintenance manuals which are created for vehicles, trains and even airplanes. These could be fat books running into several volumes, each with thousands of pages. Any mention of such fat books normally brings to mind mechanics with grease-stained clothes and fingers, thumbing through their tomes in dimly-lit workshop areas. Today the same mechanic is demanding his manual on a tablet or at times on his android phone!
Not surprisingly, this puts an additional responsibility on content creators. The older generation is used to an index, a glossary and page numbers to access the relevant pages. The first type of change that came in was the search engine in programs like Adobe PDF Reader which allowed you to jump to the section you wanted to look up. However now with mobile apps, the whole concept of a “page of information” needs to be overhauled.
In the tablet, a tap of a finger can open up a picture, textual information, animation or real operational videos. But surely the real science lies in linking and presenting all this information together so that the reading experience is enhanced. Not many in the technology domain like this though. As an engineer making the product, I want to be matter of fact in producing product documentation.  Yes of course, I need to ensure that what I write as content is interpreted in exactly the right way by the consumer of the product so that it is used and kept safe. But when the user starts to expect a great experience in elementary aspects like information access, doesn’t it become a bit too much?
Well, not really. We need to adapt with the times and appreciate the advantage this enhanced user experience provides us to convey all information to the consumer. Content writers and creators therefore have a greater responsibility to accept and adapt to this new mode of communication and applying best practices such as:

  • Generating Enriched Content that is seamlessly exhibited in the app
  • Ensuring information is complete but focused on what’s relevant
  • Blending text, graphics, animations in a simple yet visually appealing display
  • Testing the app across every platform used by the customer
  • Considering the customer’s perspective on where and how the app will be used and rating the app as a user

Providing an enhanced user experience is a key requirement for Capgemini’s Enterprise Content Management services.  We are continuously innovating to provide a better and more integrated suite of knowledge for users of mobile app-enabled maintenance documentation.

More on this next time.