March 21, 2016: Building a Documentation Portal

The documentation strategy team from Palo Alto Networks, an industry-leading network security platform provider, will describe how they created a custom documentation portal from scratch in less than two years. They will describe how they took a problem-driven approach to derive requirements for a portal that would serve their customer’s unique needs.

In addition, they will detail the innovative features that they built into the portal and showcase their hybrid topic-based system that provides the “storytelling” of a book paradigm with the accessibility of a topic-based system.

The implementation provides users the ability to browse through content linearly and to download a version for offline reading. Users can also perform a keyword search to quickly find an answer, and when they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for they can use the facets to discover the information or to find relationships between products and feature sets.

Laralyn Melvin, Senior Director Technical Publications at Palo Alto Networks

LaralynLaralyn Melvin attended the University of California at Davis where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with an emphasis in writing. After graduating, Laralyn immediately began a career in technical writing, holding several staff writer positions in the networking and security industries before launching her own technical writing business.

In 2007, Laralyn returned to the corporate world so that she could enjoy the collaboration and teamwork that she had been missing as a sole proprietor. At Blue Coat Systems, she rose to the level of principal writer and took the opportunity to co-lead the technical writing team in defining and delivering a new documentation strategy.

With a new love for information architecture and strategy, in 2012 Laralyn took a management position at Palo Alto Networks to build a writing team and launch a new documentation strategy that would meet the needs of a quickly growing, enterprise-level customer base. The team, which has grown from one writer to a team of thirteen in three years, has delivered an innovative, topic-based documentation portal with a user base of 300,000 users per month.

With a new love for information architecture and strategy, in 2012 Laralyn took a management position at Palo Alto Networks to build a writing team and launch a new documentation strategy that would meet the needs of a quickly growing, enterprise-level customer base. The team, which has grown from one writer to a team of thirteen in three years, has delivered an innovative, topic-based documentation portal with a user base of 300,000 users per month.

Matangi Vaidyanathan, Manager Technical Publications at Palo Alto Networks

MatangiMatangi Vaidyanathan has a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University and a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. Matangi started her career in advertising, and forayed that success into editing and marketing positions. Through this process of discovery, she immigrated to the United States in 2000 and took to technical writing in 2002.

Matangi loves to write about highly complex subjects, such as networking, virtualization, and SaaS application security, and is passionate about problem solving and giving her users what they want (and a little more). Currently, as a manager at Palo Alto Networks, she continues to deliver on a documentation strategy that is pragmatic and well received, because the content is useful, accessible, well-rated and valued by her users. Matangi balances her zest for technology and writing with running and yoga.

Meeting details

Date: Monday, March 21, 2016
Networking/social time: 6:00-7:00pm
Presentation time: 7:00-8:00pm+
Location: IHOP Restaurant, 4200 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara, CA 95054
Cost: Free
Note: You don’t have to be an official STC member to attend the meetings.

Slides

Here are the slides from the presentation.

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