Survey of SMEs Yields Improved Search Metadata

Patrick Files, an Information Developer at Rockwell Automation, described how teamwork with SMEs and a survey produced improved HMTL search methods. Files, a NEO STC member who creates and maintains online help for software products at Rockwell, was the guest presenter at the February meeting, titled “Mining for Metadata with Survey Monkey”.

After making the transition from CHM files to HTML, the Information Development team turned their focus on improving search results by inserting keywords into topics as metadata. In order to find the right keywords for each topic, the team knew that they had to engage the SMEs. But, trying to schedule and lead multiple meetings would be time consuming for the information development team. And, they knew that they would be competing for their SME’s limited time and attention.

So, the team took an unusual approach and designed a survey to gather SME input. The survey proved to be an effective technique, and the SMEs were instrumental in developing keywords for better search results.

Files said the following 10 steps helped target their goals for the survey results:

  1. Create a help topic map or tree based on tasks
  2. Create a list of categories for which users might search
  3. Create a survey that asks for search terms users might enter when searching the help for
    that category
  4. Create a list of SMEs who can brainstorm search terms
  5. Send the survey to the SMEs
  6. Analyze the search term ideas in the survey responses (Tip: Avoid terms that might highlight a concept at the expense of something else)
  7. Compare the list of search terms to the topic map or tree and keywords .csv file
  8. Assign search terms as keywords to the topics
  9. Insert the keywords in the topics in AuthorIt (the keywords are hidden from the user’s view)
  10. Publish help, test the search results, and make adjustments

Rockwell Automation also will host the March 7 meeting on how Information Architects play a pivotal role in content strategy for technical documentation.

By Bob Young