Adobe TCS 2017 Content Tools & the Customer Experience: A Fast 5 Interview with Stefan Gentz

As the global evangelist for the Adobe Technical Communications Suite, Stefan Gentz talks with a lot of content professionals working with companies large and small in every part of the world. He recently sat down with TechWhirl for a Fast 5 interview to discuss how user experience (for authors and producers) and customer experience informed the development of the 2017 Release.

Actually, we could have renamed this session to “Fast 15.” We and our readers put together quite a few questions for Stefan, and he was more than up to the challenge. In addition to highlighting the enhancements to FrameMaker, XML Documentation Add-on for Adobe Experience Manager, FrameMaker Publishing Server, and RoboHelp, we spent some time discussing how user and customer experience continue to drive TCS product development, and choosing the right combination of Adobetools to support an organization. Here’s a short summary of our conversation, along with a link to the video, in case you missed the broadcast.

FrameMaker’s Dual Focus: Structured Content Enhancements and a Greatly Improved User Experience

Stefan provided a little historical background, going back to FrameMaker 8 to describe the evolution in content creation and how this favorite tool of tech writers evolved along with it. The FM8 version was Unicode enabled and provided support for DITA 1.1, laying the early groundwork for continuing improvements to structured content capabilities. With FrameMaker 2017 Release, the development team continued the focus on structured editing enhancements, significantly adding to enterprise-level publishing capabilities that distributed content teams need.

The other focus, on improving the user experience, included many smaller improvements that improve the author’s workflows, as well as a major revamping of the interface. The Adobe FrameMaker (FM) development team accomplished this while “future-proofing” functionality and back-end processing to accommodate larger trends in technology such as very high screen resolutions/retina displays. Long-time FM users seem delighted with these changes (like the streamlined graphic placement function), and prospects have a much shorter learning curve.

Customer Needs Drive the New Release of the XML Documentation Add-on for Adobe Experience Manager & FrameMaker Publishing Server

Introduced last summer, the Adobe XML add-on for Experience Manager “connects the dots between marketing and technical content.” Stefan works with more organizations that clamor for a way to pull together structured content, and various digital assets on a single platform that can manage and share them across the enterprise. He points out that now, Adobe Experience Manager provides the platform and the XML add-on provides the component content management system (CCMS) to manage DITA content. He’s excited about how organizations are transforming and creating completely new customer journeys supported by both technical and marketing content.

In a different part of the technical content spectrum, many companies need to manage very large documentation sets with frequent and regular updates in several output formats. Stefan refers to these as “classic style tech docs,” and FrameMaker Publishing Server (FMPS) is ideally suited to those organizations looking to automate parts of the publishing workflow. In the past, large technical documents were relegated to sites separate from the primary corporate site. Combining FrameMaker and FMPS gives the technical content team access to a familiar authoring environment and outputs that include responsive HTML5 for adapting to any screen size.

Stefan notes that the size of the content team doesn’t usually have much bearing on what combination of Adobe tools would work best. It’s much more important to look at what kind of content needs to be produced and managed, and what channels the consumers of that content will use. FMPS requires a relatively low investment to manage high volumes of content that need regular refreshes. The XML add-on for Adobe Experience Manager can provide complex options for combining multiple text, visual and audio assets that support pre- and post-sales and marketing objectives.

RoboHelp Continues to Transform How Users Interact with Published Help

As content creation within the organization converges, branding becomes an important factor across the board. Stefan describes how many help systems continue to have a similar, rather bland look and feel. The RoboHelp 2017 Release addresses the end-user experience with several improvements. Tops among these is the addition of predictive search capabilities that mirror the major search engines, and meet user expectations for content findability. Stefan is also a big fan of the new “sexy templates” that allow companies to provide a unique look and feel to their published help, no matter what output format they need. He notes the underlying code improvements, such as Section 508 compliance, aren’t necessarily visible, but make a big difference to the overall experience. And Section 508 compliance can make or break a company’s ability to sell into the US government.

Which Adobe TCS Tools Are Right for the Organization?

In traditional tech comm fashion, the answer is “it depends.” Stefan emphasizes that the choices between or among RoboHelp, FrameMaker, the XML add-on for Experience Manager, FMPS, and the other tools in the Technical Communications Suite depend on the organization’s needs for:

  • Sharing content assets across the enterprise
  • Automating publishing of large volumes of content
  • Managing content within a corporate website or support portal
  • Providing multiple formats across device types, languages, and channels

A Peek into the Future

As the convergence of content and creation management continues, Adobe plans to continue “future proofing” the tools that are a part of the Adobe Technical Communications Suite. Senior management in many organizations looks to consolidate their IT platforms and toolsets, and strives for more efficient management of content-related assets. Content professionals use the tools in TCS and in the Creative Suite, and the company continually looks for ways to ensure the tools perform for these users. Stefan says this means technical communicators must continually reassess their roles, what they do and the processes they use to do it. “Users expect content to be there for them, whatever device, whichever language, whenever they want it. Adobe TCS gives companies the set of tools to do that more effectively than ever.”

Adobe Systems offers a 30-day free trial on Adobe Technical Communications Suite (2017 Release), as well as the individual tools.

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