One of the most commonly given reasons for choosing digital over print is that you’ll save money while helping the environment. Ever thought there might be much more to it than that? Going digital means you’ll have the power and flexibility computers offer in both your processes and your products.

Printed support materials still have their place in our increasingly digital world, but they’re being made to serve smaller purposes with the bulk of information moving online in the form of digital support materials. While your great uncle may debate this with you, its advantages cannot be denied. Why print out page after page of instructional content when there’s a more cost-effective, eco-friendly, and interactive way to provide customers with the information they need?

Digital support materials can be accessed from a variety of devices, whether it’s the desktop or laptop computer you use as your primary workstation, or the tablet or mobile phone you carry around on the go. And the content can be optimized for search engines to help the user find exactly what he or she is looking for without hassle. How often have you actually wanted to read through an entire user manual versus simply locating the answer to a question? For most individuals, it’s usually the latter. And that becomes more and more likely to be the case the greater the page count.

Digital support materials also offer more variety in the way of presenting content. Which would most prefer: A several-hundred page book with only an index and table of contents to help you get to the right page, or a topic-based HTML guide with many interactive benefits, including clickable hyperlinks, search queries, dynamic table of contents, and alternate text for the visually-impaired? Even a print-optimized PDF file for the customers who prefer more conventional formats can offer many of the benefits mentioned above when viewed digitally.

But take care not to confuse variety with having to choose one format over the other in order to keep it manageable to maintain your content. There is a way to offer your content in multiple different formats with ease: single-sourcing.

Imagine writing a 200-page user manual and converting it into a PDF, and then discovering that many of your customers want a more interactive format. Or realizing that some need to read the manual on a mobile device and want to avoid the inconvenience of reading a PDF on a tiny smartphone screen. You may have the content your customers need, but if it’s not in the formats that are convenient for them, they are less likely to read it.

How would you fix this problem? Creating and maintaining the same content in multiple different formats seems like a big hassle. That’s an option, but you’ll need to keep track of each content-related change you make so you can update it in all the other existing formats (be grateful for copying and pasting). Also, this method requires more storage space, and overall greater need for content management resources.

What if you only needed to manage your content in one location, but at the same time have multiple formats available? This is where single-sourcing comes in. With single-sourcing, the content is stored in a system where it only needs to be managed from one location, but can be quickly and conveniently replicated in many different formats when needed. This means you can give your customers a variety of formats without the headache or costs of managing content in different locations.

The power of offering information digitally goes beyond saving costs, time, and the environment. It creates an efficient way to provide customers with the information they need in the way that best suits their lifestyle.

By Joseph Paiano

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