Approximately five years after the publication of the current "DIN EN 82079-1 Preparation of instructions for use – Structuring, content and presentation – Part 1: General principles and detailed requirements" (06-2013), a new Draft has been published.
For us as Technical Editors, this Standard is one of the most important Standards for informational products, as it provides recommendations for requirements for creating user information and the creation process. It can be applied equally to consumer products and large manufacturing plants.
What has actually changed? It's worth it now to take a look at the new Draft.
At the beginning, the terminology on the front page quickly catches the eye. It no longer speaks of operating manuals, but of usage information. The operating manual is provided as a synonym. No longer just the document, the information becomes the focus.
In the areas of application The Standard solidifies the concept of usage information and describes it to those of whom the Standard is directed. In so doing, the many questions about usage information, the product, and the affected parties are also more clearly addressed. A number of examples make it clear that the Standard applies to a wide range of usage information – regardless of whether the usage information is printed or electronic (e.g. customer service information, troubleshooting information, and product training documentation). This Standard is not only aimed at those who are involved in (and responsible for) the creation of usage information, but it also guides and supports those responsible from concept design through to the provision of usage information; in other words, throughout the entire Information Life Cycle.
A look at terms and definitions shows us that a number of terms, with annotations added, have been added and some have also been deleted. Some of these terms refer to the informational product or focus on the information, itself. For example, the informational model or the information quality is defined. The language has been simplified in many places. Additional comments explain complex issues among others by using examples. The "General" subchapter provides a more concrete introduction to the actual topic and distinguishes the concepts more clearly from each other.
The normative part describes the conformity assessment of the usage information. The requirements of the document are considered from two different perspectives: Requirements for the usage information and the information management processes. Informational Annex A provides guidance on evaluation types. There, empirical methods for evaluating usage information are described.
The chapter on the Principles has been completely re-worked. The focus of the chapter is the purpose of the usage information, the quality of information, and the procedure for information management. At the heart of information management is the use of repeatable procedures, which include improvements in accessibility, quality, and reuse. Also, the target audience orientation remains a key issue. The target group analysis is examined in more detail on the basis of various characteristics and, in addition, reference is made to the requirements of ISO IEC 26514 for target audience analysis.
An essential new subject, described in a separate chapter, is the information management process. This requires the implementation of information management processes. Four groups of processes are highlighted. These include, but are not limited to, the analysis, design, processing, and updating of usage information — covering the lifecycle of the informational product. Unlike in the current Standard, the procedure for creating the usage information has been integrated into the normative part. It is required that the target audience should be actively involved in the optimisation process of the usage information; even after the product has been placed on the market.
The "Content of Usage Information" chapter has also been restructured. Much of the content that we already know from the current standard also reappears here. In the interest of better retrievability, some content has been presented in its own subchapters. In addition to this are topics such as Information Security and Data Protection, as well as guidance on self-assembly instructions.
The "Structure of the Usage Information" chapter is more extensive in the new draft than before. Newly added is the differentiation of Information types "descriptive", "instructive", and "referential", which are treated as part of a functional structure. The navigation and structure of electronically provided usage information has so far been less well documented. A separate chapter should be devoted to the provision of electronic usage information, and how search functions and links can add value for the target audience.
Another chapter deals with resources, formats, and media of usage information. Much content comes from the "Principles" and "Design" chapters of the current version. For better discoverability, some sub-items have been summarised (e.g. requirements for legibility and readability). Warning signs should be "discreetly" formatted so that the user is not distracted from reading the information.
The development and preparation of the usage information should be the responsibility of competent individuals. In addition, in a separate new chapter, the professional skills should be described and requirements defined for these people. In addition, task-related competencies and the competencies of translators are listed. Based on a performance model with three different performance levels, the various requirements for the responsibilities are described. According to the three performance levels, different responsibilities should be assigned tasks with varying degrees of difficulty. Competency assessment is listed as part of the Conformity Assessment of the information management process in the informative Annex.
The scope of the Appendices has been reduced and is partially incorporated into the normative part. The informative Appendix contains, as mentioned above, a guide to the Conformity Assessment. During the assessment, it should be conclusively determined whether the content from the corresponding sections of the Standard has been implemented. The various checklists are no longer included.
The current Draft has a large number of new features in the normatively regulated part; not only structurally, but also in terms of content and terminology. With the information in focus, we are looking forward to the final issue!