Info Tech Trends

On Stage at tcworld: “This is Why Users Cannot Understand Your Content”

 

The leading global event and marketplace for technical communication—known as the tcworld conference—is once again taking place in Stuttgart this autumn. We’re proud to announce that our information architect, Jonatan Lundin, will be on site, presenting his latest insights into user behavior and information design. 

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How Do We Bridge the Gap Between Academics and Practitioners in Tech Comm?

By Jonatan Lundin

Tom Johnson, a San Diego based technical writer, recently raised a highly relevant and intriguing question on his blog: Why is there a divide between academics and practitioners in tech comm?  As a PhD student dually active in both the academic and practitioner realms of technical communication, I feel compelled to join the discussion.

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Now Published in ISTC Communicator: How Do You Design for Findability?

By Jonatan Lundin

Many technical communicators invest a lot of effort into designing for findability, yet find themselves struggling with information architecture itself: What type of information should be organized, and in which manual? How should content be structured in each manual?

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We’re Presenting at the tcworld Conference 2015!

By Carina Lekander

We’re happy to announce that we have been officially accepted as a speaker at the tcworld conference taking place in Stuttgart, Germany November 10-12 this year. The tcworld conference, in collaboration with tekom, is one of the world’s largest events and marketplaces for technical communication.

 

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Now in tcworld Magazine: Integrating a Translation Memory into a CCMS

By Carina Lekander

Joakim Ström—CTO, and one of the key drivers of product innovation here at Excosoft—reveals a closer inspection of the workings behind integrated translation memory in his latest article, published this month in tcworld.

 

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How Granular is Your CCMS?

By Peter Strömbäck

Information re-use is a key feature of all advanced Component Content Management Systems (CCMS). Instead of copy-pasting text or authoring the same content over and over again, publications are built-up from little pieces of information that are created and maintained individually, allowing them to be re-used across multiple publications. Few voice dissent; it’s an efficient way of working, with cuts in authoring and translation costs as the main motivators.

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Put the Tech Doc on Management's Agenda

By Niklas Thorin

Something that’s really stuck out for me in my two years working with technical documentation is this enduring friction between technical documentation groups and business managers— they just don’t understand each other. While management chronically undervalues the very purpose of the tech doc, frustrated technical documentation groups are silently teeming with knowledge of it’s hidden potential.

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Machine Translation– Friend or Foe?

By Peter Strömbäck

Machine Translation (MT) is a major force to be reckoned with in the field of technical communication today. Whereas the human translator works for a salary and at their own steady pace, Machine Translation gets the job done for next to nothing and with unprecedented expediency. It’s no wonder so many are looking to Machine Translation to cut costs. However, despite such savings there exists a trade off when it comes to the quality of the end product. For documentation departments, or other purchasers of technical translations, some insight into Machine Translation may be valuable. What follows is a simple primer on the basics.

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Can Tech Writers Create Links without Even Writing Them?

By Jonatan Lundin

This article discusses why links are important, and how technical communicators can make them without actually explicitly writing them.

Some technical communicators say that links should be handled with care, especially in a topic-based environment, since you can end up with broken links depending on how you organize and filter topics. Also often discussed, is whether links should be embedded or inserted at the end of a topic as a list of references. The technical communication community has at least come to the agreement that creating a link strategy, and the actual links, is a time consuming affair.

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3 Things All Tech Writers Struggle With

By Niklas Thorin

Being in the technical documentation business, we naturally maintain close contact with the inner world of technical documentation and the users of our product—the tech writers themselves. In the interest of being able to offer the best product possible, it’s our job to understand the everyday life of tech writers: How they work, what they're aiming to achieve, as well as what challenges they encounter most.

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6 Reasons Your Marketing and Tech Doc Departments Should Be Thinking Together

By Niklas Thorin

Many product-based companies view technical documentation as an isolated instance that has little to do with the rest of their communication-related operations, like marketing. This often overlooked disparity cannot fare well, however, in today’s information age, where everything you write or take a picture of ultimately ends up on the internet— whether it’s you who’s put it out there, or your customers themselves.

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Why is it Important to Design for the Searching User?

By Jonatan Lundin

In the Designing for the Searching User series I discuss how to predict user questions, and how to make answers findable. But equally important, is to discuss why we are doing this in the first place, and what it actually means. This edition to the series is devoted to addressing these questions, and to supplying technical communicators with some solid arguments for why now is the time to change our approach to user experience design.

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A CCMS for the Content Providers

By Niklas Thorin

Technical specialists are the content providers in the world of technical documentation. Whereas technical writers take on the role of editing product information for optimal user comprehension, the content providers are the inventors, product owners, and technical specialists standing closest to the product itself. They possess in-depth knowledge of how a given product works, why it exists, and what solutions it has to offer its users.

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Is Intelligent Content a Good Idea in Technical Communication?

By Jonatan Lundin

Over the summer, I became a bit provoked while reading the thoughts and opinions of people in our industry regarding how technical communication is supposed to look in future. My overall impression left me mulling over the following question: Should technical communicators be designing content so that the right information presents itself to the right person, at the right time, on the right device, and in the right location?

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Next Revolution is Information Handling

By Niklas Thorin

I came from the mobile telecom industry. In only a few years we literally changed the world. The next revolution is clearly that of information. In the midst of what’s become a truly globalized world, it’s vital not to drown in the tsunami of information that’s come with it. Not least, you should try to avoid drowning when it comes to producing information or content in a multitude of languages, formats, versions, and brands.

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How Do We Know Which User Tasks to Write in Manuals?

By Jonatan Lundin

Many technical communicators have learned that an end user manual should consist mainly of tasks. That is, instructions detailing each step that users are recommended to follow. And indeed, a user must complete many tasks do get a product to work.

But how do we know which tasks to write about in end user manuals? Are you like me, a technical communicator who finds it confusing at times to identify what task to write? Then this article, part 6 in the Designing for the Searching User series, is for you.

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What Types of Questions Do Users Ask?

By Jonatan Lundin

A core skill required of technical communicators is the ability to determine what type of information end users need in order to achieve a particular purpose. Many technical communicators, including myself, struggle at times with figuring out what information to write and how to organize it. See for example a recent discussion on LinkedIn.

In my previous article , I discussed the principle of predicting user questions and introduced the concept of question type, which serves as a fundament to knowing what type of information to write. But what types of questions do users ask?

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Tech Doc Automation Next Step in LEAN Revolution

By Niklas Thorin

LEAN is the name of the game these days, especially in the realm of industrial manufacturing. With an increasing number of competitors in the global playing field plus a considerable upsurge of information flow, streamlining the production process is vital to maximizing value and staying in the lead.

Much has already been done in terms of automation to achieve alignment with the principles of LEAN manufacturing. Yet, there remains a lesser-explored opportunity that can make a considerable difference– namely, the automation of technical documentation.

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The Catch-22 and the Super Manuals that Saved the Day

By Niklas Thorin

Metso Minerals and their technical documentation department were snagged in a catch-22. The renaissance of the mining industry had presented them with a great opportunity to thrive and expand, yet a time consuming technical documentation process was threatening their competitiveness in the marketplace.

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How Do We Make Short Answers Easy to Find?

By Jonatan Lundin

Current ways of delivering technical documentation-- such as via a PDF or CHM file, HTML web help, or Wiki, etc., all have something in common: content is organized in a static, arbitrary structure. In such a book-like format, the table of contents is often the user's only option when it comes to finding relevant information. It's an almost impossible challenge to design a static structure that everyone finds logical.

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Do You Have a Get-Online Strategy for Your Tech Doc?

By Niklas Thorin

All companies want to be on-time to the market. Just listen to the commentary being exchanged in the corridor, like “We must launch this in an APP”, or, “I saw that in company X’s new series they can control their system from a tablet… why can’t we?”

Why not be among the first with an online solution? Upgrading your technical documentation is an easy first step, and can act as a seed of expansion; leading to seamless integration with other critical business systems, and resulting in a truly holistic online solution for both you and your customers.

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Raising the Standards for Simplified XML Editing

By Joakim Ström

What would happen to Microsoft Word if its users were required to not only make sense of the complicated XML1 markup which is used to store files in the docx format, but also to put up with error messages proclaiming things like “myprojectplan.docx:67:20:E: document type does not allow element ‘p’ here?” The program would probably be a lot less popular to say the least, and most people would seek alternatives. Yet, technical communicators using XML-based editing tools are expected to put up with that sort of thing all the time— all in the interest of a higher purpose, such as quality improvement and slashed translation costs. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

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Should the Answer to a User Question be a Short or a Long Topic?

By Jonatan Lundin

A user asks questions when stuck in product use. Displaying information-seeking behavior, they search for answers; and it’s you—the technical communicator—who is responsible for providing them with one. But then you get stuck as you ask yourself: how long should the answer be? As the question of topic size, (as in a DITA topic), continues to be controversial in the technical communication community, we also need to ask ourselves how the size of an answer relates to the size of a topic. My conclusion is that users prefer short answers. Why is this? And how do we make short answers findable? This post, part two in the article series Designing for the Searching User, provides insight into how to design next generation technical communication.

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Upgrade Your Unfriendly User Manual and Tune-In with Your Customers

By Niklas Thorin

You've spent a lot of time and resources developing a comprehensive user manual, catering to every thinkable question a user might have about your product. So whywhy, you may ask, are my customers calling my support department again and again, seeking answers to simple questions that have already been addressed?

 

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