46 Questions that Will Help You Produce Better Technical DocumentationRead More
Information Design Tech Writer Tips
Check out our presentation from the largest conference on technical communication in the world- tcworld 2015 – to see how to create one (1) mobile-friendly web knowledge base from existing technical documentation books. This, without requiring any manual work to rewrite or re-structure the book content.
The presentation show how taxonomies are used to classify content in several book manuals, managed in the Excosoft Skribenta component content management system. These books are deployed to a responsive web knowledge base (generated by Skribenta Finder), where users use filters and relations to find answers.
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.Read More
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?Read More
As a technical communicator, you probably know why you design and write information. It’s because you want to satisfy the user’s information need. But how do you know what information users need in the first place?
Your answer will differ depending on how you define an “information need,” which is a central concept in the world of technical communication. The purpose of this article is to distinguish between two conflicting definitions of an information need, and to show how each perspective represented affects the design of end user assistance.
You should, of course, abide by the perspective that leads to happy users, but which is it?Read More
It’s not difficult for a user to find information—it’s as simple as opening a user manual or performing a Google search. What users often find difficult, is assessing whether the found information is relevant to their specific information need. A crucial component of end user assistance is, therefore, supporting the user in judging the relevance of what they find.
Are you a technical communicator working as an information architect to increase your content’s findability, with the goal of creating a happy user experience for your customers? Then this article is for you. Read on to find out how you can better support users in making accurate relevance judgments by designing your content for enhanced findability.Read More
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.Read More
Us technical communicators have been taught that end user assistance for a product should mostly include instructions addressing specific user tasks. But how do you know that the method you’re using to identify these tasks, such as Target Group Analysis, actually leads to the information users are searching for?
I have always thought that grouping users into target groups, like installer, operator, etc., and analyzing the tasks each group is supposed to perform, is the wrong starting point for anticipating the information needs of users. Especially when designing information intended to support a user of your company's products.Read More
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.Read More
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?Read More
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.Read More
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?Read More
Many technical communicators struggle to define what type of information should be put into different types of manuals, and how it should be organized. At the same time, they’re faced with pressure to escape the book paradigm; the traditional book-like manual that is leaving customers frustrated in their inefficient pursuit of information.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More