Is it time to stop creating those page-wasting Table of Contents and Indices in a world where manuals are no longer being printed?
We deliver all of our documentation as PDFs to our customers (except for that rare marketing collaterals that get printed and distributed). These PDFs are uploaded to a repository and made available to customers (external and internal). Having observed how people use our documentation these past few years, I noticed that only a few people actually ‘glance’ at the Table of Contents. Everyone seems to like the Search button in Acrobat Reader. Just fire a few keywords and Presto!, here are the results.
All that time and effort I spent in developing that ToC and Index was down the proverbial drain as they never saw the user’s eyes. Not that you can blame them for not looking at my lovingly crafted ToC. Information seeking has moved away from getting to know the structure of a guide from the ToC or narrowing down a selective topic from the Index is no longer the right way to do things. It has evolved to the search box. PDFs are great for searching and you can even search multiple PDFs simultaneously.
In a world when documentation was printed and delivered to customers as printed books, the Table of Contents and the Index made sense as you can ‘run’ a search on a printed book. But do they still make sense in an electronic world where documents are created as searchable PDFs?
Is it time to eliminate tables and indices from the documentation deliverables, especially when they are not being printed?