Don’t shoot yourself in the foot with content reuse




Everybody knows that reusing and repurposing content is good. Any professional help authoring software will have support for single source as one of their top three killer features.

The benefits are obvious. Yes, reusing content lets you

  • maintain consistency
  • avoid making updates to multiple help articles when an UI changes
  • reduce on the review and editing effort
  • reduce on localisation costs
  • adjust content for different documentation deliverables

But has anyone ever told you about the flip side of single-sourcing every chunk of content that can potentially be reused? Alas, there's no such thing as a free lunch.

We have a team of 18 tech writers working on the same project and writing documentation for a family of 12 products based on the same platform. And, naturally, we reuse a lot of content that covers shared functionality and include it into different help instances with filters, conditions, and variables.

And at some point we began to notice things happening. In this talk, we'll look at things like debugging included content, traffic cannibalisation (doesn't that sound scary?) and how content reuse affects SEO, and other pitfalls of single-sourcing that may not be so obvious. Single source is a powerful weapon, but, as with any weapon, you need to know how to use it wisely so that you don't shoot yourself in the foot.

  • Conference: Write the Docs Portland
  • Year: 2022

About the speaker

Anna Gasparyan