Chunking Content for User Roles

Selectively including or excluding content using conditional markers is something that most Flare authors are accustomed to. However, you may find yourself in a situation where you don’t necessarily want to actually remove content, but you need to provide users a way to customize the display of that content to fit their user role or perhaps their version. Two great ways of doing this are the use of drop down text and/or the use of togglers.

Drop Down Text

Drop down text can be used when the specialized information lends itself to nice big contiguous chunks. If you can write the topic so that the top four paragraphs are the common information, then the next three paragraphs are specific to the basic version, and then the final six paragraphs are specific to the advanced version, then drop down text is perfect. Just set the three basic paragraphs as a “basic” drop down element and then set the last six paragraphs as an “advanced” drop down element and you are all set.

However, life rarely lets us get away with big contiguous blocks of information like that. Often the basic and/or advanced information will need to be mixed throughout the topic. This is a case where togglers can be used.

Togglers

If you are not familiar with toggler links, it is a bit like having a link anywhere on the page that can be used to show or hide any other information on the page that the author selects. One toggler can be used to show/hide fifteen paragraphs, eight bullet items, and three images spread all over the topic. By using multiple toggler links you can provide controls so that users can tailor the topic content to their own needs.

A small example:

I have created a topic with two togglers in a small navigation box. One is labeled Basic Version and the other is labeled Advanced Version. When the topic first opens the user only sees the common content and these two toggler links.

The user can now click on the toggler links to show more information tailored to their needs. If the user clicks on the Basic Version toggler then they will see all of the common information and the now exposed basic information (in green to make it easier to spot).

On the other hand, if the user had clicked on the Advanced Version toggler then they would see the common information and the advanced information (in yellow).

For more detailed instructions on how to name topic elements and how to add toggler links to your topics details are available in the Flare online help system here.

These are just two techniques for chunking content in a manner that allows the user/reader to tailor the visible content to their needs. If you have another technique feel free to share in the comments section.

-Mike

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4 Responses to “Chunking Content for User Roles”

  1. Togglers are neat and I use them regularly to hide/show images. This allows me to have contiguous text and only display images if the user wants to see them. The toggler itself is formatted as a link, so it’s quite obvious to the user that something will happen when they click on it.

    One thing you need to be aware of though and it’s not mentioned in this article, is that by default the entire content of a topic will print in the a PDF or DOC version. This may mean that you would have to conditonalize the toggler content and apply that in the target definition, say if you only want a Basic version and not the Advanced parts ot print. This can be somewhat complex and starts raising the question of whether it’s better to use togglers rather than have two user-specific targets with their own conditions. Then again, everything in life is a compromise.

    Robin

  2. […] MadCap Software blog has an article about chunking content with drop down text and togglers – Chunking Content for User Roles. Selectively including or excluding content using conditional markers is something that most Flare […]

  3. […] Hamilton on the MadCap blog wrote an excellent tutorial on how to chunk content. We’ve covered this subject before, especially when looking at information architecture and how […]

  4. […] Walsh on November 20, 2010 Mike Hamilton on the MadCap blog wrote an excellent tutorial on how to chunk content. We’ve covered this subject before, especially when looking at information architecture and how […]

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