Adding structure and visual appeal
For more than 25 years, documentation experts from commatec, a Roche Diagnostics partner, have helped the company develop technical documentation. Depending on the device, a single operator manual can have up to 1,500 pages, with training and service manuals adding up to another 1,500 pages. In addition to developing content, commatec also provides consultation services for the authoring and tool landscape.
A few years ago, Roche Diagnostics determined that the look and feel of its manuals needed a refresh. Customers were asking for more images and less text, so Roche Diagnostics developed a training manual prototype and then turned to commatec to help make the transition across documents.
“After having the same layout for several years, we wanted to move into a completely new era,” says Thomas Risi, Head of Documentation Core Lab at Roche Diagnostics. “Aesthetically, this involved a new focus on graphics. We also took the opportunity to move from unstructured to structured editing using Adobe FrameMaker as our XML editor.”
Initially, Roche and commatec considered using the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) as its Document Type Definition (DTD), which is essentially the “grammar” of a file. The DTD for an Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) file contains the elements, attributes, entities and notations used. However, DITA was too complex for what Roche Diagnostics wanted to achieve. With help from commatec, Roche Diagnostics created automations for converting unstructured documents to a customised XML framework.
“Our starting point was a document that was creative and filled with insight, but didn’t have rules for standardisation,” says Martin Schlicksupp, CEO of commatec. “So, we built the structure ourselves with the right blend of content rules and design flexibility using Adobe FrameMaker. FrameMaker has been our favourite tool for nearly 20 years because in FrameMaker, we always seem to find a solution for any documentation challenge we face.”