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Building Perch Docs Using Perch
I love Perch.
Moving from a (mostly) static-site building business to taking a structured-content/CMS approach with Perch has been a great move, and one that has allowed the types of sites we can build (and clients that we can land) to increase dramatically.
I keep finding more and more things I can do with Perch, but there's always been one hiccup: documentation for clients. (To clarify: I don't mean Perch docs for developers â€“ I mean end-user docs for the clients.) Dynamic sites require task-based documentation, and that means not a lot of room for generic writing. The ability to add help content within Perch is awesome, but generally I need to supplement that with a PDF file or two that the client can have printed in a binder next to their workstation.
But, as anyone who's tried to create a thoughtful design with screenshots and how-to text in a WYSIWYG like Pages or Word already knows, building docs takes FOREVER. Personally, it's my least-favourite part of the process (and I can't imagine I'm alone here). I've tried single-purpose apps to get around the headaches, but they're always limited at best, and buggy at worst.
And then I had one of "those" moments: I mean, what are clients docs other than structured content? Wouldn't it be cool if a local install of Perch could be tasked with the layout and design of these damnable things?
Long story short: it's cool as heck.
A "page" becomes a topic, multiple "regions" are the tasks, and "repeaters" act as the steps. With some print CSS applied, you can save the output in a properly formatted PDF in a snap. Perch_content_custom drops in some on-page navigation as well, and edits to the docs are super easy. And of course, I can focus on writing good documentation instead of fighting layout in some BS editor.
The next step would be to integrate a customer portal via the Members add-on to give the client access to custom, printable docs, for Perch, from Perch.
I would link to a design, except that it's a local-only thing right now. Hopefully you get the idea though â€“ I'd be happy to elaborate if anyone cares!
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