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Podcast -- Tackling Godzilla: A Writer/Usability Consultant Reflects on the Largest Project of her Career

Mar 26, 2008 • podcasts, wordpress

Theresa PutkeyDownload MP3
Duration: 30 min.

In this podcast, I talk with Theresa Putkey, a writer/usability consultant in Vancouver, about the largest project of her career. She explains how she approached a project that had upwards of 2,500 help topics, many of which consisted of duplicate content. She explains how she transitioned from RoboHelp to Flare, the advantages she found as well as her regrets, and how she configured the search to make it easy for users to find information.

Theresa recently presented a similar topic at Content Convergence and Integration, a conference in Vancouver. Her presentation was titled "SuperWoman, WonderWoman, UnderDog, and Leprechaun, with Flare: A case study in breaking down silos." You can view the slides from her presentation on SlideShare.

Learn more about Theresa by reading her blog. You can also read Theresa's articles on Boxes and Arrows.

Topics Covered in the Podcast

Topics covered in this podcast include the following:

  • approaching large projects with hundreds of help topics located in multiple sources
  • how Flare and RoboHelp handle large projects (latency issues)
  • AuthorIT, always a hometown favorite
  • techniques for breaking down silos
  • how she transitioned from technical communicator to information architect
  • why she moved away from RoboHelp to Flare, and the problems she found with both
  • the sluggishness she encountered with large files
  • how to approach the information architecture for a project with 2,500+ topics
  • tips for creating more effective searches
  • implementing Madcap Feedback server for keyword search metrics and and comments/feedback
  • overcoming problems of findability
  • integrating knowledge base articles with read-me's and technical guides and user guides maintained in 5 different formats
  • creating a master search for a massive help project
  • topic-based browsing in the TOC versus search
  • configuring synonyms and keyword concepts
  • limitations with Flare's search
  • techniques for gathering feedback from users
  • importing Word files into Flare
  • cleaning up RoboHelp code before importing into Flare
  • getting buy-in from different departments (teambuilding)
  • Flare's unexpected learning curve
  • choosing software based on the needs of your project
  • considering cost when selecting software
  • several hidden gotchas in Flare
  • working with concept keywords in Flare to improve the searchability

Podcast Sponsors

MadCap Flare is the most versatile XML-based Help authoring tool on the market, with thousands of customers using MadCap products including Microsoft, Google, HP, GE, yahoo and the list goes on. Check out Flare version 3.1 and a host of other new tools at at

Adobe – The Technical Communication Suite software offers a complete solution for authoring, managing, and publishing interactive instructional information from technical documents and books to online help systems, knowledge bases, interactive training, and eLearning content in multiple formats and languages. Learn more here.

Intro music is Velveture by Ocean Alexander

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical communication — Swagger, agile, trends, learning, plain language, quick reference guides, tech comm careers, academics, and more. I'm interested in simplifying complexity, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture and findability, and more. If you're a technical writer of any kind (progressional, transitioning, student), be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here. You can also contact me with questions.