Your technical documentation delivered exactly how you want it and, most importantly, how your customers want it.
Single-Source Publishing is the capability to publish the same, single chunk of content across multiple channels. The definition overlaps a lot with some of our other articles on multi-channel publishing, and omnichannel versus multi-channel publishing. However, the key distinction is the source of your content.
You can learn more about single sourcing in this explainer, but the key takeaway is this:
In a single source of truth, all your content is arranged in a way that avoids all overlaps and duplication.
With single-source publishing, because your content is organized in a single source of truth, it’s perfect for publishing whether it’s:
- Static Website
- Custom Content Portals
- Release Notes
- API powered… anything
If you play your cards right (and by “play” I mean structure and by “cards” I mean content) you can publish your content to all those outputs with the same, single chunk of content.
We explore each of these outputs in more detail below.
Why do we want to publish to all these outputs?
It’s pretty simple.
Your product is only going to be great if people can use it.
To help people grasp how to use your product as quickly and effectively as possible, your content needs to be on point. That means you’ll need to get your content to all your different audiences in the formats they prefer.
This might seem like a lot.
But, when you consider the tradeoff, you’d do more harm by failing to invest in the delivery of your content. The care you put into your content reflects the care you have for the experience of your customers. So, we’re going to show you how to publish your documentation, and then some.
Publish Technical Documentation Using Structured Content
No, seriously, it’s a game-changer.
For a second, let’s think about the conventional lifecycle of publishing documentation. In a few words, drastically simplifying it, we plan, write, review, revise, and deliver.
Is this ever how it really goes?
It’s more like this: plan, write-and-format, review-and-format, revise-and-reformat, and format for publishing, but you need to format to however many different output types your documentation is bound for.
Structured content changes the conventional lifecycle by:
- Componentizing the content into self-contained blocks
- Separating the formatting from the authoring process
With structured content, you don’t write while formatting a document. You write a series of content blocks and then those blocks are formatted automatically when you publish. Writing and formatting don’t disrupt one another. This way, time writing content is totally focused on the quality of the content. Which is a dream come true for content writers.
When it’s time to publish, structured content is built to publish to several different mediums all from one source. In easyDITA, you still need to set up which outputs you want your documentation to be published to, but once that’s done, you can go on publishing constantly without spending any further time on formatting.
easyDITA Publishes Technical Documentation To Multiple Channels
Long gone are the days of publishing content to one or two mediums.
Multi-channel publishing is the way your content reaches the most people. It’s up to you to make sure your content is in enough output formats to give your audience a wealth of options about how they’ll consume your information.
If you’d like to learn more, we have a whole resource on what multi-channel publishing that goes more in-depth.
For the rest of this article, we’ll look at the ways in which you can publish to multiple outputs from easyDITA (a single source system) without ever duplicating your content.
How to Publish to PDF
For product documentation, PDF publication isn’t even close to being outdated.
Tons of industries need their documentation in multiple media formats. PDFs included. Whether these PDFs will occupy an online platform or be included manuals with physical devices (or both), the need for PDF publishing isn’t going extinct in the near future.
Still, you can imagine how keeping tabs on hundreds of PDFs might be a substantial task. Fortunately, with structured content organized within a CCMS, you’re better able to author, publish, and update across your entire library from one single source of truth. Watch how we do it.
How to Publish to Static Website
Your docs in one place.
In the age of innumerable plug-and-play content management systems (WordPress, Drupal, Wix, SquareSpace, etc.), we’re distracted by design-focused platforms that sacrifice UX. With documentation websites, users are less likely to care about frilly designs than are to care about whether your site can solve their problem fast. Static sites are ideal for that. From powerful search functionality to fewer technical dependencies, they’re meant for consistency and ease of use.
The first-ever websites were static websites. There’s something that static websites share between back then and right now: they just work.
We’ve got a whole post showing how you can do it: How to Deploy Your easyDITA Content to Netlify in Minutes
Custom Content Portals
Bespoke documentation portal? Your docs site, but make it fashion.
Modern companies don’t live off PDF and static sites alone! easyDITA is fully equipped to deliver fully responsive, next-generation web design for your dynamic content portals.
Static sites work well, but they’re technically limited when it comes to more advanced design needs. Dynamic content is also, dare we say, a bit more fashionable and in line with modern web design principles that users and devs get all doe-eyed over.
Like ABIE, from Allstate.
There’s a fairly common misconception that AI is at the point where it can create its own content and deploy it without human intervention. Well, it can’t. In fact, we’re a long way off from that being reality especially with complex products. So for now, the focus for chatbots should be around providing our chatbots with a repository of properly structured content that they can then deploy to accurately respond to customer queries.
Just like we did with Allstate Business Insurance’s chatbot: the Allstate Business Insurance Expert (ABIE). Working closely with Allstate, easyDITA helped them deploy a chatbot solution that greatly enhances the relationship between customers and support personnel. You can check out the press release here: Allstate Insurance Creates Chatbot to Help Small Businesses.
In fact, it was such a success that our work with Allstate Business Insurance and ABIE became a case study: Allstate Business Insurance, an easyDITA Case Study.
Don’t Forget Your Release Notes
When you update your product, clearly tell people exactly what that update entailed. In release notes.
In the process of publishing technical documentation, you’re giving people a lot of information about your products. Given the need for technical documentation throughout industries that are thoroughly complex, it can be easy for people to get lost in the woods with new releases.
That’s why you’re able to integrate release notes in your publishing process to give users a summary of what’s changed with your product in a new release. That’s a whole bunch better than making them have to suss it out on their own by sifting through hundreds of pages of documentation to make these discoveries.
Worse yet is having release notes that aren’t helpful. We have a lot to say about release notes and little room to say it, but our CTO & Co-Founder, Casey Jordan, dominated the conversation in a two-part webinar series that answers things in exquisite detail.
If you’re looking to really go down the release notes rabbit hole, be our guest:
API Powered Connectors & Extensive Output Exporting
We know modern organizations are using a quiver full of tools.
It’s much more convenient and efficient when these applications can communicate with one another. easyDITA uses REST APIs that make it possible to connect with systems like Zendesk, Salesforce, Mindtouch, and XTM International. Need to connect with another application? Talk things out with our team of developers and customer success managers, we’ll help figure out a viable solution.
easyDITA’s content is ready to deploy to almost any output you’ll need (and we’re always working on more). Writing in our authoring environment ensures that content creation and formatting are totally separated. When you’re done authoring your content, a few clicks will publish it to:
- PowerPoint Presentation Slides: [VIDEO] How To Create PowerPoint Slides From DITA Topics in easyDITA
- Microsoft Word
Your Content, Published Everywhere
The usefulness of your content depends on people’s ability to read it. To read it, they need to be able to find it. With this many options for publishing your technical documentation, your content is poised to be accessible, fully up-to-date, and diversely distributed wherever you want your audience to have it.
If your content isn’t reaching as many people as it could, let’s talk. We’ll show you how you can supercharge, polish, and publish your technical documentation with easyDITA: Schedule a Demo!