Online and Paper Documents Play Well Together

Posted on: February 5, 2010

Does a mixed system of online and paper documents work well for most users? The answer is yes, based on feedback I’ve received on many projects. Research reports I’ve read bolster my experience, as have discussions with other professional writers. Apparently, the more resources available for your company’s products, the better. Customers find that paper and online documents together offer greater access to the knowledge and training they want than one or the other by itself.

To ensure that all documents in a product set work together, each document must cross-reference the others, and each must explain how to access the others. For example, a paper document should contain a section that explicitly describes how to access the online documents and, where appropriate, also refer to specific online pages (include the page name and address). The online document should make similar references to the paper document, using a section title and a page number.

While each type of document is valuable in and of itself, mixed media can offer a level of completeness that surpasses what is possible with only one type of document. The value of an individual document is enhanced by its relationship to the entire set of documents and by the expanded user experience that the combination of print and online makes possible.

When you mix your media to communicate something to your audience, start by planning which topics to include and how to link them. You must carefully consider how each topic stands in relation to the others, and how you intend to cross-reference them. Spend time building the outlines (one for each type of document), and refine them with feedback from your reviewers.

Online and paper documents can play well together, but only if you plan them carefully and test them thoroughly.  Elizabeth Lexleigh  The Write Ideas  lexpower


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