Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Voice, New Tone, New Information Architecture: Writing for the Modern Developer

Keith Boyd has spent 13 years (today!) at Microsoft, all of it in the Content Publishing group.

There are now (at least) 3 playforms that developers can develop for globall. So we asked how content strategy can better help developers work with Windows.

The problems were typical, lots of legacy content, siko'd teams, and so on. With Windows 8, trying a new approach.

Dev Content 101, 1980-1997: Big book, literally printed, out-of-date before shipment.

Dev Content 2.0, 1997-2010: moved to the web, semi-continuous publishing, MSDN became center of gravity.

Now: Dev Content 3.0.

Want an experience that inspires and motivates developers to bet on Windows. Give only relevant content, filter the rest. Content & samples that support end-to-end experience--tthe "horizontal layer" instead of narrow content about each feature. Make content feel like a conversation, not us talking at you. Access to everything in one place.

Now created a single unified Windows developer portal. Content focuses on the how, not the why. The architecture focuses on software development lifecycle.  The latter is an emphasis on building apps quickly, from getting started to sales. Content is organized by that lifecycle. Still have deep conceptual guidance, but not everyone needs it, so it's de-emphasized.

Samples are the backbone of the experience. It's in a pyramid. At the bottom is reference material with code snippets. Above that, feature material with API feature level samples. Then is cross-feature guidance. And finally end-to-end demos show the value proposition.

Changed the voice. Made is collegial, not colloquial. Part of it is admitting when something is going to be hard or complicated--and helping developers through the pain.

Code samples are checked in to the Windows code source tree and tested nightly, which raised the bar for sample code quality. 

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