Workflows [was: How to Get Into ... Best Job Title]

29 Jan 2004 - 10:29pm
1013 reads
Todd Warfel

I'd be interested in seeing what other people's workflows are for IA
documentation. We've used several in the past and have found one that
has improved our productivity (more below). But I'd be interested in
the solutions some of you have come up with.

One of the things that improves a product's adoption rate is a product
that supports or mimics existing workflows.

As an example, we recently finished up a great deal of user research
for a set of applications focused on recruiting, selection, and
orientation of new employees, as well as ongoing career development.
One of the sites we studied had already made a significant investment
in a technology solution for this. The new technology was suppose to
make their workflow more efficient. In some ways it had. However, one
of their biggest problems, and costs, was that the new technology
workflow varied greatly from the old workflow. Consequently, they had
HR staff sticking to the old way. And in some cases, HR staff that was
doubling up - the old way and new way - now doing twice as much work.
This could have been avoided with proper user/task analysis and
understanding their current workflow better. By doing so, they can
create a new technology based workflow that utilized efficiencies in
their old workflow, and improved inefficiencies. Build on existing
knowledge. Instead, they've now incurred substantial costs for
training, ongoing support, and decreased efficiency in several areas.

Relating that to our documentation workflow - we've considered using ID
in combination with Illustrator. We also considered using the
multi-page plug-in from HotDoor for our workflow. We didn't want to
complicate our workflow any more. We wanted to simplify it if possible.
After a roughly two months of evaluating both workflows, we've settled
on Illustrator with the multi-page plug-in. Why? well, it mimics our
current workflow better and requires less change to our daily
operations. We're already in Illustrator, so why should we have to
switch to ID to comment the wireframes and make an 80+ page PDF? We
were already making each wireframe on a separate layer, so, this
solution works well for us. And we don't need all the extra intricacies
that ID offers (e.g. handling of type, linked text boxes, and more).
Likewise, we don't find ID to be a suitable Illustration tool.

Interestingly enough, our workflow has simplified significantly since
we decided to use Illustrator with the multi-page plug-in. And it's
much simpler than it was when we tried ID and Illustrator together. We
don't have to shuffle through a folder of 80 .ai files to find the
three that we have to update, as they're already in the one file. We
don't have to switch apps and republish. We can create common headers
and footers with the Master Page feature. This is lost when using the
AI/ID combination.

And that's our workflow.

What workflows do others use for documentation?

P.S. In the past we've also experienced workflows using PPT or Word for
documentation and linking in Visio documents. But that runs into the
same problems we had with the AI/ID combo. I think David mentioned once
that Visio is scriptable to address that issue, but we never found how
to do that. It's a moot point now, as we've moved to Illustrator for
all of our tool of choice for illustrations/diagrams. And we're much
happier now.

On Jan 29, 2004, at 8:23 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> What you are missing is that by adding in all the multi-page features
> into Illustrator, you would make Illustrator as complicated as
> InDesign and Illustrator ***combined.*** The workflow doesn't
> magically simplify when you add all the features you mentioned around
> multiple pages and especially master pages.
> You have the perception that somehow making Illustrator complicated
> with multiple pages is somehow a simpler workflow than simply using
> Illustrator and InDesign together. All I'm suggesting is that it's
> not, especially when you get into the details of the workflow and the
> many variations on that workflow people use.

> If you are making 80 drawings, you are making 80 drawings. There's no
> getting around the number. What you seem to want is to put all those
> drawings into one single file represented by one single icon rather
> than creating a folder to put 80 icons into that folder. There are
> many pros and cons to doing this, most of which revolve around how to
> manage those 80 drawings inside one single document, how to reuse
> specific individual drawings in other work, not having to barrel
> through a file that contains 80 drawings, takes minutes to open and
> load, when all you need to do is work on two of them, etc. etc.


Todd R. Warfel
User Experience Architect
MessageFirst | making products easier to use
Contact Info
voice: (607) 339-9640
email: twarfel at
aim: twarfel at
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.
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