Friday, September 9, 2011

Information Mapping

This is the new mantra in my workplace. We all are currently moving towards creating documentation that is not only easy to understand, up-to-date, and useful, but also that is info-mapped.

What is Information Mapping?

Information Mapping is a research-based approach for creating structured documents that are clear, concise, and user-specific.

Complex information is broken down into information blocks. These blocks put forth a single idea or point, making it easy to understand.

Each block is an information chunk that is labeled. Labeling and chunking are the two main aspects of information mapping.

Who Started it All?

It was a technique developed by Robert E. Horn.

Information Types

In this method, Robert Horn uses six information types: Procedure, Process, Principle, Concept, Fact, and Structure. These types are used to segregate your content to make it easier for users to use, reuse, and understand the content.

How Have We Implemented it?

We are overhauling our existing documents to adhere to the Information Mapping principles.

Following are the tasks we are doing to implement Information Mapping:

  • Remove information that is no longer required or redundant.
  • Remove information from one chunk and place it into another chunk making it more relevant and useful.
  • Give labels to each chunk.
    Labels help in understanding the crux of the chunk. Labels allow for a quick glance through the document to understand the main points.
  • Segregate information into the different information types.
    So, conceptual information is documented as Concepts. Actual procedures that list steps to perform tasks are documented as Procedures.

How Has it Helped Me?

Information Mapping has given me a new perspective to writing. It has given me an opening and understanding to write concisely. As I write new features, new procedures, create new graphics, I have started thinking from the user's perspective. I try to understand how the user would like to know about the new feature. What labels should be given to the chunks to make them useful for the end users. I am taking efforts to sort out information into the different info types so that while reading, one single point is dealt with in a chunk of information. It has helped me ask the how, why, what questions that are essential to creating information that is relevant, complete, accurate, and to-the-point.

I am glad that we have started using Information Mapping for documentation. I know I can improve my writing using this technique.

Recommended?
Definitely.

2 comments:

  1. It's difficult to have him as your manager and still not be using Info Mapping, innit? Remember the sessions we had about 3 years earlier? ;-)

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