SolidWorks strives to provide the best documentation possible for our users. As discussed in my earlier blog post, we have implemented SolidWorks Web Help to allow us to enhance the help experience, update the content more easily and allow users to more easily find content. In addition, the following content, process, and policy improvements have been made to improve the documentation content for SolidWorks 2010 and future releases. These improvements apply to both the new web based documentation as well as the local CHM files installed with the software.
- A more thorough process for collecting the information for writing the documentation and reviewing the resulting documentation has been put in place to ensure the functionality is more completely and accurately documented. This process involves more input from our developers, product definition specialists, and user experience staff who have the most technical knowledge of the functionality of the software.
- The approach to writing the What’s New documentation has been adjusted to provide more complete documentation of all new features, but especially for release highlights. Writing of the What's New document is started much earlier in our development process so it receives much more review and iteration (using the process above) before being distributed to users with Beta 1. This new approach also facilitates re-use of the material for the main help documentation and tutorials which will help to ensure we deliver more complete documentation across the entire document set. Also, with this approach, the main help documentation for the "release highlights" is available at the same time as the first What's New document (Beta 1). In previous releases, none of the main help documentation was available until Pre-Release 1.
- Our documentation staff now writes more "mini-tutorials" which are developed and delivered in the same release as new functionality is developed. In past releases, the tutorials would often lag the functionality by a release.
- Our policy regarding images in the documentation has been modified. Previously, ALL images in the documentation containing text were localized into the language of the documentation. This policy limited the number of images we could put in the documentation. We will now provide more images in the documentation, some of which will have English text even in the foreign language documentation. Non-localized images will be used where the text only provides visual context and the translated text is not important to understanding the image. This enhancement should provide a better experience and more visual information for all users of our documentation. This policy change has already resulted in close to 100 additional images in the documentation of new functionality in SolidWorks 2010.
In addition to these changes, with each release we are putting more emphasis on going back to the existing documentation and making sure that features and commands of SolidWorks are thoroughly and accurately documented. We had already received positive feedback from users about improvements to the documentation content with SolidWorks 2009 and even more emphasis has been placed on these types of improvements in SolidWorks 2010. To this end, we hope that you will help us identify areas that may be lacking complete or accurate documentation by using the new “Feedback on this topic” link in the upper right corner of each help topic in the new SolidWorks web help (as shown in the image below). Using this tool will send feedback directly to our documentation staff so they can investigate and improve the documentation over time.