Utiliser mon DIF pour un atelier "Documentation minimaliste" ?

 ... Non, mais et puis quoi encore ?


Quel contenu ?

  • Au cours de l'atelier, vous vous familiarisez avec les 4 principes du minimalisme, puis vous les mettez en application à partir de VOTRE documentation. Vous pouvez repartir avec vos propres documents retravaillés !

 Quels destinataires ?

  • L'atelier est destiné à tout rédacteur/manager vraiment désireux de fournir (enfin !) l'information utile (... et peut-être cesser d'être la risée des utilisateurs qui n'aiment pas qu'on les prenne pour des handicapés du bulbe !)

Quelle difficulté ?

Par exemple, que couvre le principe numéro 2 ("Anchor the tool in the task domain") ?

  • Le minimalisme a été développé par des professionnels de l'analyse du comportement des utilisateurs. En atelier, nous clarifions et mettons en application le résultat de cette analyse.

 Quelle finalité ?


 Que rejeter ?

Eliminer ? Ciel ! Est-ce vraiment nécessaire ?
  • L'utilisateur n'a pas besoin de trouver, dans un manuel, ce qu'il sait déjà : que sa tondeuse sert à couper le gazon et qu'une lame bien acérée peut couper un doigt de pied !

  • Un Ch'ti est-il vraiment capable de démontrer la pertinence du minimalisme ? 

 Où s'informer ?

  • Si une information vous manque, n'hésitez pas à contacter [flacke [at] orange.fr]

 Quels coûts ?

95 heures de travail perdues par employé et par an...

 Quels commentaires ?

  • Oui, mais, qu'en pensent les participants ?


 A quand le prochain ?


Minimalism vs. Information Mapping: what's the best choice ?

Back to the sources

In an article dated April 2008, Bob Doyle provides a quasi-exhaustive recap about
 the different methods of document design.
Information Mapping (R) was developed in mid-60's by Robert Horn who identified 7 common"Information types" of a structured document:

  • classification, concept, principle, procedure, process, structure, and fact.


Structured authoring

Information Mapping is considered the birth of Structured Writing as Mike West explains in "Structured writing, structured documentation".

Information Mapping is a set of tools:
"Structured documentation is a way of planning and implementing the various phases of a writing project; and we may think of structured writing as a set of tools and techniques to be used by writers during the writing phase of a project"
If Information Mapping is the toolbox, what is minimalism?

Minimalism ?

Information Mapping(R) was designed to help engineers document their programming work (reports, descriptions, etc.). Let's say it's a writing guidance for non technical writers. Its structure is pretty rigid and not really designed for task-oriented activities; it is more a classification of information.

Minimalism was developed in the late '80s by John M. Carroll, member of an IBM team:
"It was task orientation carried to an extreme. Minimalism meant small non-linear chunks readable in any order. It emphasized reading To Do, not reading To Know or To Learn, a phrase first introduced by Ginny Redish"

Minimalism puts the END_USER in the center of the information development, not the writer. It focuses on the user's tasks. The minimalist writer ignores writing tools, GUI or product description. His first questions are always:

"Who is the end-user? What does he want to achieve with this product?"


Dr. JoAnn Hackos, expert both in Information Mapping (IM) and minimalism, published an interesting research article showing that 
"IM formatting makes absolutely no difference in user performance. It adds unnecessary words like the stem sentences: "Do we need all that glue?"
and considers "Information Mapping is outdated".

What is GLUE?

"Glue text is defined as transitional information intended to inform readers of what has come before or comes after a particular procedure, description, or explanation.
In topic-oriented authoring, which forms the basis for the DITA Model, transitional text has become problematic." (Dr. JoAnn Hackos)

So what ?

Talking of modular, DITA-ready documentation,  professional technical writers don't need to think about facts, principles, structure, etc.  In 2014, they focus on providing user-centered, useful and responsive documentation. The new challenges are findability and usability on Any device, anytime, anywhere... Do you really need a 4-paragraph Introduction on your Google Glass?

The next Minimalism workshops takes place in December 2014 (in English)
A workshop in French is being scheduled December 15-16 in Paris. Registration details coming very soon!


What's in a minimalism workshop?

What are you going to learn in a minimalist workshop?

No, you won't cut words and you'll go on writing complete, grammatically correct sentences.

You'll learn how to provide the necessary information to your users... and, above all, you'll learn how to respect your users.

Too often, information developers forget the essential: their user has
already a lot of knowledge and experience and this should be respected.


 (excerpt from TC World magazine)
1.    What is a user account?
2.    Set up a user account
    2.1    What is a set-up assistant?
    2.2    Create new user
    2.3    This is how it works: New user

3.    What is account management
    3.1    Configure control elements
    3.2    This is how it works: Customize account management 




The title format is disturbing because not consistent.This mix of instruction-like ("Set-up a user account") titles with questions, combined with statements ("This is how is works...") is a challenge for the end-user.

Questions are usually grouped in a FAQ and descriptions ("This is how it works...") belong in a tutorial, while instructions are the basics of any user guide (Installation Guide, Operator's guide, Maintenance manual, etc.)


The content is also quite surprising. 

Differentiating between "Set up a user account" and "Create new user" (*) needs some clarification. Where is the difference?

The "minimalist writer" considers: "When Charles, the database administrator, receives a request for a new user, how does he call the task: 'Setting up a user account' or 'Creating a new user'?
 Based on that, the writer starts drafting the instructions while maintaining a consistent terminology. Synonyms should be banned from any user documentation! They disturb the user : "Why another term? Why another phrase? Do they refer to different actions?"


Interesting is also point 3.2.
It aims at providing conceptual information ("this is how it works"...), but provides _instructions_: "Customize account management". The title format is similar to point 2.2 : "Create new user".  Another example of inconsistency. If it's a procedure, give it a procedural-type title (based on an action-verb).
Usually, users are not interested in knowing how it works. They want to perform a task to reach their goal. That's all!

USER (Respecting your users)

More significant here: the documentation designer forgot an essential point. 

The user is not stupid, he is not a 6-year old in charge of managing user accounts. This is a professional with at least 3 or 4 years of experience in user account management. 
As a technical author, do you feel like explaining this IT professional what a user account is?...

In the documentation process, technical communication professionals put the user first :  they define the user's profile, his previous knowledge, his work environment, etc.  It's the best way to respect the user and it's the best way to be respected as technical writer!

Proposed (minimalist) solution

1. Setting up a user account
1.1 Setting up a user account from the XXX page
1.2 Setting up a user account with the set-up assistant
2. Managing a user account
2.1 Configuring  control elements
2.2 Customizing the account management


Desperate situation: following the original model, it is obvious the documentation won't be DITA-ready. It is going to be a costly and painful migration to sort (and re-write) the content in tasks, concepts and references...


More information on Minimalism workshops

(*) wondering wether it's possible to create an old user account...