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.
Example(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 page2. Managing a user account
1.2 Setting up a user account with the set-up assistant
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
- Workshops are available in the US and in Europe.
- Your organization can hold an in-house workshop.(Reduced rates)
- If financing your participation to a workshop is an issue, link your management to this discussion or this one (in German).
(*) wondering wether it's possible to create an old user account...