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Wacom

Overhaul of Wacom’s API documentation for their Wacom Ink Layer Language (WILL) SDK. Wacom is the world’s leading producer of graphics tablets, used by artists and designers across the globe to create digital art.

 

Wacom opens its software to external developers through an application programming interface (API) called Wacom Ink Layer Language, or WILL. Using WILL, developers can build apps for computers, smartphones, and tablets that transform mouse or touch input into onscreen graphics.

Wacom’s aim is to make WILL a standard model for onscreen graphics, just as HTML is the standard for web development. To achieve widespread adoption, the WILL software development kit (SDK) that is supplied to external developers must be easy to use. This makes the built-in documentation crucial.

The SDK documentation includes high-level concept articles about WILL, API reference documentation, and tutorials for using WILL in iOS, Android, and Web apps.

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THE CHALLENGE

Wacom needed to bring its documentation up to a standard comparable with the SDKs provided by other multinationals. The WILL developers had written documentation themselves, but there were issues: it was written by non-native English speakers, there were few links between tutorials and the API reference material, and the content consisted of large blocks of unbroken text.

It was difficult for the Wacom team, as product specialists, to stand back and identify what new users would need to know, or how to share that knowledge effectively.

OUR SOLUTION

TWi worked with Wacom’s developers in Sofia, Bulgaria to improve the WILL SDK documentation. We started by analysing the existing deliverables and reviewing the documentation. After this, we provided Wacom with a full list of potential improvements. We discussed this with the client, and agreed on a prioritised list of improvements in accordance with their timelines.

We quickly got up to speed with the tools used by Wacom to edit their documentation. We reworked concept articles to improve their structure and organisation. We expanded tutorials to fully support novice users while facilitating quick scanning by experienced users. We implemented comprehensive linking between the tutorials and related API reference topics.
Because WILL is in constant development, deprecated and changed code was a key challenge.

We noticed instances where code snippets in the documentation did not match the code provided in sample files, and where API references linked to deprecated or missing objects. Inconsistencies like this could negatively affect the user experience – and the perception of the API and the wider Wacom brand. TWi flagged code issues to the client so that we could update the documentation and sample files where required, and changed our linking strategy to protect against obsolete or broken links as development continued.

To ensure technical accuracy, we organised regular review cycles with the client. TWi sent weekly status reports with updated timelines so that the client knew what we were doing and when we would finish. This allowed Wacom to schedule time for reviews, which helped them send feedback to us quickly. The result was a reduced wait time between draft and review handovers, and faster overall production. Other tasks that we performed included:

  • Identifying information gaps and proposing solutions
  • Advising on style and formatting
  • Pulling code snippets from sample files to illustrate tutorials in more detail
  • Updating metadata to ensure correct output
  • Ensuring a consistent tone and layout

THE RESULT

Wacom noticed a significant improvement between the original in-house documentation and the final TWi deliverables. The client reported that our work greatly increased the clarity and quality of the documentation supplied with the WILL SDK, making it easier for external developers to start using the API. The client was also reassured by the excellent communication from TWi, and the developers at Wacom were impressed with our initiative in flagging technical issues and researching additional relevant information without their input. As a result, Wacom extended the project scope and retained TWi as an outsourced documentation provider for an expanded Phase 2.


KEY BENEFITS

  • Higher documentation quality and better structure
  • Professional management of documentation project using strong communication skills
  • Greater consistency
  • More user-friendly tutorials
  • Sanity checked technical data
  • Improved styling and formatting

We already had some API documentation in place but felt we needed professional writers to bring it to a standard comparable to the SDK offerings of other multinationals. This is where TWi’s assistance proved invaluable. They quickly got to grips with the technical nature of the material and took a fresh look at everything we had. The content is now structured and clear, and its usability has been greatly enhanced. TWi worked with my team and quickly understood how our internal documentation generation tools work.

They proactively made suggestions to enhance our HTML tools for previewing the SDK content, which we implemented. This allowed the writers to take responsibility for the final look and feel of the documentation, meaning we no longer have to perform this task. We’re very happy with their performance to-date and are planning to work with TWi on future documentation projects.

Branimir Angelov, System Architect, Wacom Europe GmBH


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