Authoring responsive content

Recently, I had an opportunity to present at tcworld India, one of the largest technical communication events in the country. Tom Johnson set the tone for the conference with his keynote address on the need of innovation in the technical communication industry. He highlighted how the web was acting as a platform for innovation and how important it was for writers to catch up with this wave. In a way, Tom’s keynote set the right context for my session about why it was important for technical communicators to start authoring responsive content.

An increasing number of workplaces are embracing the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and many employees are carrying smartphones to work. These trends indicate that users are consuming technical communication across multiple devices and screen sizes. Web designers adapted to this change quickly by leveraging innovation on the web to design websites with minimal programming and maximum responsiveness to any device. It’s high time that technical communicators followed suit. As technical communicators, we must ensure that our content is not trapped in a format designed for a specific device. It should be fully functional and accessible from anywhere and on any device. In short, content should be ubiquitous and device agnostic.

If you’re an eLearning developer, you can use Adobe Captivate 8 to rapidly author a wide range of responsive content with zero programming. Author the content in a single project with desktop, tablet and mobile breakpoints, preview the content in different device sizes, and publish the content as HTML 5.  The course dynamically adapts itself to the screen size of the device it is being viewed on. You can also customize content for specific device sizes with the help of in-product preview to see how the course appears in a specific screen size before publishing it. You can develop the courses for LMSs.

Upload your eLearning courses to SCORM cloud and access the courses from laptop/desktop while you are at work. Pause the course at any time and revert to it using some other device, say iPad on any day and continue from where you paused. Also, you can pause again and continue it while you are on the move by using your smartphone/mobile. You can witness the seamless flow of content from one device to another device while taking up the course.

Technical communicators need to get acquainted with authoring tools and use the best tools to make their content responsive across multiple devices. While developing the help content, write concisely and set width of images in percentage values for free flow across different screens. Needless to say, use the links judiciously and use ordered and unordered lists for content. You can also use collapsible text with the help of accordions so the content won’t be cluttered when you view them across smaller devices.

To sum it up, the web world has caught up with delivering seamless content across any device. Technical communicators and eLearning content authors need to respond to this change to deliver responsive content with the help of easy to use authoring tools like Captivate, RoboHelp and FrameMaker.

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