All posts about
Technical communication

User-centered design principles for organizing documentation

UCD and documentation, a happy marriage.

“I recently presented to the STC Twin Cities chapter on User-centered Design Principles for Organizing Documentation. When organizing your documentation, such as arranging navigation titles, workflows, or other wayfinding features, you can apply universal design principles to make your content more user centered. Some of these principles include Modularity, Hierarchy, Five hat racks, and Progressive disclosure. These design principles, based on solid user research from design gurus, will help users better find and navigate your help content. You can view the recording and audio from the event here.”

Tom Johnson a.k.a. @tomjohnson ~ I’d rather be writing

What is the technical writer’s role in content marketing?

Switching labels or is technical communication now finally addressing a general audience?

“Technical writers should repurpose their information-rich content into content marketing deliverables that can be used to build relationships with potential audiences in the market. This content can help establish thought leadership, visibility, and trust with your audience so that when you start releasing and mentioning your 1.0 product, your audience adopts it.”

Tom Johnson a.k.a. @tomjohnson ~ I’d rather be writing

How prototyping is replacing documentation

We seem to be still in the deliverable business.

“Creating a prototype as a final deliverable allows for greater interaction with the product and a deeper-level understanding of how the product is experienced. It can also easily be adopted for usability testing and iterated on quickly and efficiently to push out new versions. Prototyping is also an impactful way to present to your client. People know how to interact with products. Demonstrating interactions with a prototype helps to spark well-informed discussions with clients and can lead to better design more quickly.”

(Ian Schoen a.k.a. @icschoen ~ UX Magazine)

The death of technical writing: A two-part rant

So many in our field have a similar background of tech writing, communication or documentation. These document people became the page people when the web hit them. Now they move on to the content universe. Keep on moving…

“Since the internet bubble burst of those many years ago, we’ve seen some large software companies stick around, although usually a little smaller they once were. And we’ve seen a few upstart companies turn into similarly large behemoths. Those companies still hire technical writers, although even then they tend to have different names, and often different roles. And they also hire people with funny new job titles like content strategist.”

(Neal Kaplan a.k.a. @nealkaplan ~ Customers and Content)

The battle for the body field

Content chunck and design. XML revival?

“Richer, more flexible designs can coexist with the demands of multichannel publishing; future design changes can sidestep the laborious process of scrubbing old content blobs; and simpler, streamlined tools can help editors and authors produce better content faster. By combining the best of XML and structured web content, we can make the body field safe for future generations.”

(Jeff Eaton ~ A List Apart)

The psychology of digital content

Used to think in terms of perception, cognition and emotion when designing instructional software. L’histoire se… now it’s (digital) content.

“A cognitive effect is just a change in the mind of the audience. When we learn or are influenced or make a decision, there is a corresponding cognitive effect. Most of these are small and incremental. Some are breakthroughs. All things considered, breakthroughs are more relevant than small changes to our attitudes. The actual theory is quite a bit more complex than this, but we can gloss over that complexity for the time being.”

(James Mathewson ~ Writing for digital)

The lady and the antelope: Suzanne Briet’s contribution to the French Documentation Movement

Remarkable woman in the Paul Otlet trajectory.

“During her thirty years at the Bibliothèque Nationale (BN), Suzanne Briet (1894-1989) made important theoretical, organizational, and institutional contributions to the documentation movement in France. This paper attempts to place her documentation work within the context of the far-reaching reform of French libraries, with special attention to the transformation of the BN. Like her colleagues in special libraries, Briet embraced modernity and science. However, because of her strong orientation toward humanistic scholarship, she viewed documentation service and bibliographic orientation as an enhancement rather than a rejection of the scholarly traditions of the national library. This paper will focus on her efforts to integrate the innovative ideas of the documentation movement into the practice of librarianship at the Bibliothèque Nationale.”

(Mary Niles Maack)

How the web designs information

Great insight into paper versus digital, online, Web, ‘what-have-you’. Now filter design included.

“On paper, information design is monolithic and paternalistic. It is all about static structures page layouts, indexes, tables of contents all specified by a supervising author. On the Web, information design is distributed and democratic. It is all about filters, about designing filters that work for you, and about designing content to work with the filters. (…) Content needs to be designed for the Web. The filters need to be designed for the content.”

(Mark Baker ~ Every Page Is One)

The evolution of technical communication

Information management and technical communication appear to be the parents of content strategy.

“Over the years technical communication has transitioned from a conventional author-reader engagement to a realm of social collaboration. Let’s take a look at how technical communication has progressed over time and the significant milestones along the way.”

(Monalisa Sen and Debarshi Gupta Biswas ~ tcworld)

Content Modelling: A Master Skill

Data, information, or content modelling: entities, properties and relations. Stuff and structure.

“A content model is a powerful tool for fostering communication and aligning efforts between UX design, editorial, and technical resources on a project. By clearly defining the assembly model, the content types, and the content attributes, we can help make sure that the envisioned content strategy becomes a reality for the content creators. In my recent projects, I find that content modeling is more and more in demand. It’s a valuable skill for any content strategist, especially those that strive for mastery.”

(Rachel Lovinger a.k.a. @rlovinger ~ A List Apart)

Content strategy in technical communication

Also, content strategy can learn a whole lot from the field of Techical Communication.

“In this webcast recording, Sarah O’Keefe explores how to develop a content strategy specifically for technical content. That means stepping back from the temptation to focus on tools and instead taking a hard look at what the users need and how best to deliver it.”

(Scriptorium Publishing)

The Strategic IA

A column is like a site. Great to start but a hell of a job (for most) to maintain it on a regular basis. As always, benefit of the doubt.

“This column explores the strategic aspects of information architecture and the tools to equip information architects for success. Topics will address the business, strategy, user experience, and implementation of strategic information architecture, including organizational, content management, and tactical considerations.”

(Andrea Ames and Alyson Riley ~ STC Intercom)
courtesy of keithinstone

STC: Content Strategy SIG

“The Content Strategy SIG is to be the STC home for members who are practitioners in this new space. The SIG is the forum in which to establish and develop the practice area of content strategy, particularly as it pertains to technical communication, to provide resources that prepare STC members wanting to transition to this as a career option, and to allow SIG members to support one another as practitioners as the field develops. Additionally, artifacts may be developed that allows practitioners to build a body of knowledge specifically pertaining to content strategy. The Content Strategy SIG was inaugurated in September 2009. As a new SIG, we are actively seeking members.” (Society for Technical Communication) ~ dead-on-arrival

From DITA to VITA: Tracing Origins and Projecting the Future

“DITA would have you believe that you can single source your way into every possible deliverable. In reality, you’re just making potatoes in a few different ways (scalloped, mashed, boiled). You’re still giving the user potatoes. VITA is a multimodal approach, giving the user a full array of nutrition options, so to speak. It educates and informs by touching almost every sensory input.” (Tom Johnson)