Product Review: MindTouch TCS Integrates Content with the User Experience

“No one puts Baby in a corner.” – Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing

Technical documentation is coming out of the corner and starting to dance in the spotlight. Not just dance—she’s going to do a jive that will knock your socks off.

2013 will see enterprise-level thinking that focuses on integrating technical communication with Support, Training, and Social Media. We are seeing an evolution of the technical communicator role into integrated content strategists and content curators. The new role is going to require a new set of tools, and MindTouch TCS, “the Social Help System”, is the toolset that choreographs the entire customer experience.

Imagine a fully integrated content experience, where users can ask questions about the product in real time while they’re viewing documentation; where ratings and feedback are easy, useful, and enhance the quality of the documentation; This is a place where you can get metrics on stale content, content most and least accessed, search terms that fail to find content, search terms that lead to correct content, and more. Most companies still have a wall up between the company, and their customers, and content suffers because of it. MindTouch is quite possibly the solution that will bring all those walls down, and more.

Now imagine that you can do all this while still authoring DITA/DocBook content with your favorite XML editor and while still leveraging a CCMS and all the power and ease that comes with good content management.

What MindTouch TCS offers not only makes the documentation better (hint: it can identify exactly which spots need work, which ones are vital, and which ones are never needed/never found), but also takes the user experience to the next level.

MindTouch has tight integration with easyDITA, one of the most affordable yet usable CMSs out there. The integration is still in its infancy and does need some fine tuning, but I was able to publish Joe Gollner’s DITA Demonstration Collection from easyDITA directly into MindTouch TCS with only a few small bugs. I then dynamically updated my MindTouch site with changes made in easyDITA with the push of a button. Now that’s real power.

MindTouch TCS works on the same theory of topic-based writing that DITA relies on: task, concept, and reference. DITA content maps naturally to MindTouch architecture.

MindTouch TCS Offers Superstar Collaboration Possibilties

This is a world where all sorts of collaboration is possible, especially where users can add their own content, have their own followers, and become super users.

MindTouch TCS also offers vital, groundbreaking integrations with Support ticketing and HelpDesk software (such as Salesforce) so that content and support tickets work in co-ordination rather than in silos. Need to integrate marketing automation tools? That’s possible too. Hell, let’s throw in some Google Analytics and chat tools as well. Want to post lots of videos and keep things visual? No problem.

Need to keep all your content under lock and key? Absolutely possible. Integrate with an LDAP or set it up as a semi-public site (so that users sign on before contributing or viewing).

Check out Autodesk’s implementation of MindTouch TCS. They made a distinct effort to emphasize collaboration and create a community of knowledgeable super users, in an interface that’s easy to understand and to navigate.

Autodesk implementation of MindTouch TCS

The Autodesk implementation of MindTouch TCS emphasizes collaboration, community, and ease-of-use.

 MindTouch’s basic sidebar functionality is like hitting the documentation user interface jackpot:

  • Search. Powerful, easy, usable, save-able, sortable. And it has its own feedback mechanism so users can tell you when the search results are just plain wrong.
  • RSS feeds so people are alerted when content important to them is updated.
  • Visible tags reference the last updates to a piece of content so users can tell if what they’re seeing is fresh or possibly outdated.
  • Print, email, and PDF on demand. Make a note of this: this is how you avoid delivering PDFs of your books.
  • A way for users to easily rate the pages (and the higher the rating, the higher the ranking when returning search results).
  • Automated (and always functional) linking to related content. This feature works exactly like a DITA relationship table, where the connection between topics doesn’t reside inside the content but is nevertheless available to users viewing a specific topic. Move the topic, change the name of the topic (which changes the URL), and links update automatically.
  • Metadata tagging (implement your taxonomy here, or let the users do it for you).
  • Easily manage the status of your content, moving it from draft to final, outdated, or obsolete.

At this point, you might be thinking that there’s no way you can afford a tool that seems like the answer to every tech comm dilemma you’ve ever faced. May I humbly suggest that you’re wrong? MindTouch pricing is very reasonable with unlimited viewers and collaborators, even at the base price. The value is undeniable, even if you only look at one advantage, such as metrics.

In short, MindTouch TCS is reliable, powerful, and versatile enough to do anything you need to do. If you want your content to be center stage, then you have to check it out.

Jacquie Samuels

Jacquie Samuels is the owner of Writing Wise. She endeavors to help everyone create documentation that is stronger, faster, and smarter. You can connect with Jacquie through her Google Plus page.

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