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Think More, Write Less: Professionalism and a high-value approach to prioritizing, designing, developing, and delivering information
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Think More, Write Less: Professionalism and a high-value approach to prioritizing, designing, developing, and delivering information


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May 16, 2013 STC Webinar:

May 16, 2013 STC Webinar:

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  • 1. IBM Total Information ExperienceThink More, Write <Architect, Design, DO!>Less:Professionalism and a high-value approach to prioritizing,designing, developing, and delivering informationAndrea L. AmesIBM STSM and Information Experience Strategist/Architect/DesignerUCSC in Silicon Valley Certificate Coordinator and Master InstructorSTC Fellow and Past President (2004-05)ACM Distinguished Engineer16 May 2013© IBM Corporation 2013. All Rights Reserved
  • 2. IBM Total Information ExperienceAbout AndreaTechnical communicator since 1983Areas of expertiseInformation experience design: Content strategy,information architecture, and interaction designfor content display and delivery, within productsand interactive information delivery systemsArchitecture, design, and development of embedded assistance (content withinor near the product user interface)Information and product usability, from analysis through validationUser-centered process for information development andinformation experience designIBM Senior Technical Staff Member on corporate Total InformationExperience team in IBM CIO’s officeUniversity of CA Extension certificate coordinator and instructorSTC Fellow, past president (2004-05), former member ofBoard of Directors (1998-2006), and Intercom columnist (with AlysonRiley) of The Strategic IAACM Distinguished Engineer2
  • 3. IBM Total Information ExperienceBeginner’s mindIt’s not just for Zen, anymore Everyone close your eyesNow breathe…take 3 deep breathsand relaxDuring this hour, we’ll talk aboutwhy we should return to ourbeginner’s mind toBecome more professionalDeliver a better andhigher-value experiencefor our clients
  • 4. IBM Total Information ExperienceAgendaA quick historical retrospective of our industryWhat does “think more, write less” really mean?Why do we need to do this and change the way we’vealways done things?How can we think more and write less?But…but…but… <your objections here >Where do we go from here?
  • 5. IBM Total Information ExperienceOur industry…not exactly a shining example of the rightway to do thingsEmphasis on products and selling, not users (buyer is not always user)Development processes often chaotic or non-existent, not user-centeredInformation development processes are typically not integrated,at the mercy of development processesPerceptions of “technical writers” are wildly variableDocumentation is often compensation for unusable products, a finger in aneroding dam of bad designTechnical communicators are losing the battle,because traditional deliverables,developed by traditional means,are not workingReference that “papersthe product”Generalized user guide info“Type your name in the namefield” helpBased on development specs, without user input
  • 6. IBM Total Information ExperienceThink more, write <do> less…what does it really mean?Think more means…Not making our users thinkNot letting the developers think for youNot falling back on old paradigmsOne help topic per UI panel…How many online library topics are we going to write?Owning and being responsible for the information experienceWrite less means…Prioritizing what you cover and whereNot just “papering the product” with obvious reference documentationStarting from the user and working your way out to information—make“looking for” the answer a last resort (because it is)Not forcing users to read—support skimmingDefining what success is or means for your team
  • 7. IBM Total Information ExperienceWhy do we need to change?Papering the product is an old paradigm thatis proven to not work – customers are not happyMore and more customer-facing folks arevalidating that customers are looking to forumsand other community sources of info, not docThere’s lots of focus across the industry on thetotal information experience and content strategy(due to falling customer sat)Business environment is constantly changingExecs are constantly re-evaluating what is valuableIn business, if you’re stagnant, you dieWe don’t want to be stagnant, and we want to be seen as valuable tothe business…so that they’ll keep paying us!
  • 8. IBM Total Information ExperienceHow can we think more and write less?Prioritize using scenariosSometimes this means not writing somethingMost often, it means covering it in an unfamiliarway (to the team, clients, and even you)Own the informationDon’t do whatever the line items, development, specs,etc., “tell” you to doDo what you know, as a professional, to be right for your usersPhase work to define your version of successWork with your team leadership and management to identifycrawl, walk, and run phasesGet input from other teams for ideas about how this might look
  • 9. IBM Total Information ExperienceHow can we think more and write less? (cont.)Take user input into consideration, but don’t just do whateverthey sayUnderstand the root cause of their concernsDesign the right solution for the issue at hand and validate itTypically, users don’t know what the root cause is; they onlyknow how to articulate what they like and don’t likeIf it seems complicated or difficult to you, it probably isRaise the issue with the team, contribute ideas for improving the productdesignIf you can’t get changes, or get them rightaway, find ways to improve the userexperience without adding “topics”…multimediademo or tutorial, embedded informationAsk questions about what you don’t know(probably the same as user’s questions)Look for gaps between UI panels, betweentasks, between different UIs (admin versusend user client, e.g.), between products
  • 10. IBM Total Information ExperienceHow can we think more and write less? (cont.)Apply progressive information disclosureEnsure the product is as easy to explain as possible, firstStart with the user and provide the rightinformation in the task (embedded assistance)Don’t rewrite what’s in the UI in hover helpand help panelsDon’t include unnecessary hovers and help panelsDocument the UI in the UIDocument the domain, cross-UI-pane tasks,cross-product tasks and processes, etc., outside the UIDetermine what’s highest-value for your users—examples, samples, tasks,tutorials—and focus on thoseDon’t try to cover every part of the product with every kind of informationand deliverableFocus on tasks, then on supporting reference infoFocus concepts on domain vs. toolDesign deliverables to support skimming from user tasktool and from UItaskdomain informationThere is no cookbook/recipe for implementing this;priorities are situational and you must think!
  • 11. IBM Total Information ExperienceBut…What about development? They expect…<all kinds ofthings, here >Their expectations of what we provide comes entirelyfrom usWe must take responsibility for changing thoseexpectationsAre expectations based on history? or necessity?We can show them a different way—a validated, betterway
  • 12. IBM Total Information ExperienceBut… How can I prioritize around scenarios and not aroundfunctions when my dev team doesn’t have scenarios?Ask your dev team for scenariosOffer to draft scenarios for the teamCollaborate with your UX team (if you have one) to createyour own, reasonable scenariosIf you must prioritize around functions, work with yourtech comm and extended team to carefully consider howto cover and deliverthe information
  • 13. IBM Total Information ExperienceBut…How can I not write something?The goal is not to leaveareas uncoveredInstead think about the best wayto cover them and perhaps onlycover them in one way vs. multipleIf priorities truly point to leaving areas uncovered, workwith your tech comm team to build the appropriatebusiness caseLeverage tech comm leadership or management (if it’snot you) to ensure appropriate follow-through withdevelopment, execs, etc.
  • 14. IBM Total Information ExperienceBut…How do we implement something really new? Even ifit’s the right thing?What about translation? Infrastructure? Established process?Work closely with your tech comm team to ensure this isdone in a way that it can best be leveraged, will haveappropriate focus and resourcesTeams are great incubators for newinformation-delivery innovationsThink about participating in yourorganization’s strategy development toprovide input into focus for innovation
  • 15. IBM Total Information ExperienceWhat are your concerns?Your concern here 
  • 16. IBM Total Information ExperienceQuestions?
  • 17. IBM Total Information ExperienceContacting/following/connecting with AndreaE-mail: aames@pobox.comTwitter: @TMWLala, @aamesLinkedIn: