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Technical Communication on Life Support: UX and Content Strategy are the Reclamation!
 

Technical Communication on Life Support: UX and Content Strategy are the Reclamation!

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Overview of the changing nature of technical communication and how it is being overtaken and replaced by UX and content strategy.

Overview of the changing nature of technical communication and how it is being overtaken and replaced by UX and content strategy.

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  • CSL Slide
  • CSL Slide BT SlideDiscussion on our backgrounds –work experienceWhat brought us together. Student-centric approaches. Creating new learning environments for our students.User-Centered Design (UCD) is an approach many technical communicators have tried to do for decades: include and involve the user to understand how they use the product. For a variety of reasons, this approach has not succeeded. Through many changes, but particularly the explosion of the Intranet and the Web during the last two decades, the concept of User-Centered Design (UCD) is now crucial and accepted at many companies in relation to their product/service development. Often this is at the expense of the traditional technical communication field; but this need not be as the needs, goals, and objectives of both fields have much in common. Failure of the technical communication field to understand and adapt User-  Centered Design (UCD) will only further exacerbate the decline of the field, which has been underway for a decade and further increased with the economic downturn of the last two or three years.
  • CSL Slide IntroductionUser-centered design processes have pushed the role of the technical communication closer to the front-end of project development and extended to product evaluation by end users [1]. Expectations have been set that product design includes the use of properly developed personas [2] and rapid iteration of prototypes with appropriate usability feedback to inform decision making [3]. Ginny Redish [4] has stated “Many technical communicators become usability specialists because they get tired of writing ancillary documentation… when the product itself communicates poorly.” This trend in recent years has been extended into the entire user experience with a product from interaction to value. In this article the authors take the position that there is less and less demand for the technical communicator only authoring content, but increasing demand for a broader and more strategically influential role in product development that encompasses both content strategy and user experience. With the rapid changes in the technical communication field and the increasingly relevant role of social media, the concept of content strategy has emerged in the last few years as a particularly important area within the software and Web-based technology fields, often positioned within the user experience umbrella. Content Strategy does not equal content management through single sourcing. William Hart-Davidson et al [5] identify how important work process and roles influence content management. They state “Attending to and fostering productive change in the writing culture of organizations requires expertise at the intersection of two strengths of our field: workplace writing research and usability/ interaction design. In fact, we have high hopes that the set of difficult problems presented by complex knowledge work distributed across an organization means that all organizations that must come to content management must come to it as a rhetorical problem (though few will use this language)—and therefore a problem of organizational identity and strategy—and not precisely as a problem of technique or technology alone.” While some introductory textbooks have integrated business practices to technical communication, few align to a product development life-cycle [6, 7]. Particularly lacking are textbooks that integrate and combine technical communication, user experience principles, and content strategy. Redish’s “Letting Go of Words” is one exception as it that deftly brings together the increasing interdisciplinary nature of technical communication by focusing on usability and content strategy. Currently books such as this are an exception. A more encompassing view of the role, responsibilities, and methods used and required of technical communicators needs to be reflected in course textbooks and materials to better represent the expectations of the profession, particularly for practitioners within industry.
  • CSL Slide In response to this rapid shift in the technical communication field to more focus on User-Centered Design (UCD), this workshop will include discussion of how two different universites have attemped to better position their programs by embedding UCD methodology in their curriculum. This switch is twofold: to allow the programs to survive and grow over the next few years and also to better assist students to obtain meaningful employment in the profession upon graduation.
  • CSL Slide Quote from the paper – useful? Yes, good linkage.Also talk about how not only are content types and delivery changing, but the idea of more visual/videos/interaction products and such are crucial – and not the traditional book. All this is depending on how you go and spend time with understanding your users too – and what they need/want.
  • BT Slide
  • BT SlideDefining Content Strategy On a high-level, content strategy entails taking, reviewing, and (if needed) modifying all communication an organization has and coordinating it so that you have a consistent and unified theme in how you present your organization to the outside world. This strategic issue involves coordinating all communication from marketing to user assistance. According to Kristina Halvorson [10]: “Content Strategy plans for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.”
  • CSL Slide This is common visual – reference to Ginny Redish’s and many others – this is more my take on how I see the UX field currently – of course always be changing. Project Management is always overlaying all of this ….and that is implicitly throughout each professionBusiness aspect of it it very happened here too – and need to discuss and mention
  • BT SlideChanges in Technical CommunicationsAs experienced educators and practitioners in communications, there are exciting developments that provide opportunities in our field. The opportunities are there for people to get the academic background they need for exciting career positions. There are many alternatives for communities of practice. Some of these are professional societies and some are less formal. Venues where researchers and industry can meet are increasingly popular and in desperate need as the field changes at astronomical speed .EducationThis rapid evolution in the change and expectations of technical communicators has been reflected in academic programs as well. At one well-known university, the traditional technical communication curriculum has been revamped in the last few years to reflect this new reality. Writing is still a core component of the program, but not the only core. For example, within this program, several advanced writing classes have been eliminated or revamped considerably to offer courses on usability and user experience and information architecture. Courses in content strategy will be offered as electives starting next year as well [12]. Almost every course in this program has a goal that each student’s final project will be a potential work-portfolio quality piece they could use in a potential job interview. Several other well-known universities that teach both undergraduate and graduate programs in technical communication have shifted their focus and even their names to a more encompassing title and less restrictive than solely technical communication.  JobsAlthough the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in their Occupational Outlook Handbook listed the term ‘Technical Writers’ as positive for job outlook for 2010-2020 [13]. How this prediction plays out, specifically within the IT, software, and Web industries is unknown. There has been a substantial decrease in the jobs and job opportunism for technical communicators over the past decade, with the past five years being particularly constricted. This change is both part of the restructuring of the industry that was systematic and happening before the UX boom and exacerbated by the rapid growth of UX too – often at the expense of technical communication positions. Bloch’s article [14] surveying career paths in technical communication quoted a student being interviewed about future jobs in technical communication that summed up the current employment landscape well: “Any tech communications interns would need to have very strong skills in usability, human factors research, or interaction design.”An examination of recent job postings on a variety of job posting locations shows a broader set of responsibilities and expectations being given to UX and Content Strategy positions over those posted for Technical Communicator. Additionally, many of the descriptions and responsibilities traditionally associated with technical communication are now being included within UX positions, often at the expense of technical communications, as we have understood the profession the past several decades. Some of the prominent UX educational programs and degrees for UX have drawn a significant proportion of potential students from the technical communication profession.Increasingly, the job profiles are indicating a broad set of responsibilities with a strong understanding of business processes with an emphasis on positive end-user experience (that is measurable) [15]. Professional Societies and AssociationsAs mentioned earlier, the change and particular decline in the numbers of membership numbers within professional societies and associations has been significant. It is clear this is due to a number of factors: some due to overall changes within organizations and some due to systemic issues within particular organizations. Upon discussion with both senior members of the STC and the UPA/UXPA, some interesting trends were uncovered.  Upon talking with the STC central office, their membership peaked in the 1999/200 time frame with about 22,000 members and the last several years membership has fallen to about 5,000 members. That decline has been significant and due to many factors, but the rapid change in the technical communication profession no doubt has influenced this reduction. STC has taken varying steps to both respond to this change and also create additional revenue streams to compensate for this loss of membership income as well as creating new professional and educational opportunities for both members and persons interested in aspects of technical communication. [16]Due to many factors, there is not a single professional society or organization for UX professionals. The largest three organizations for practitioners in the field include the Human Factors & Ergonomic Society (HFES), the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA/UXPA). HFES has traditionally catered to human factors and ergonomics. IxDA has a focus on UX, but it is more of a design-focused organization for practitioners. The UPA/UXPA is an organization whose membership is mostly practitioners working within industry and encompasses many of the emerging fields of UX that include usability, information architecture, user research, design, and content. Discussions with the UXPA President revealed some interesting trends regarding membership at the international level. Membership peaked in 2008, dropped in 2009 and has been somewhat level since then at about 2300-2500 dues paying members. [17] So membership has remained stable but “what HAS grown is the number of UXPA chapters and their relative size. But we don’t have accurate numbers on that because not all chapters report their membership rosters or numbers to us [17].” Several of the UXPA chapters have annual conferences themselves (outside of the international conference), particularly Boston and Dallas, and each of those conferences in 2012 had more attendees than the international conference, and there were over 500 attendees at each conference. Much of the growth within the UX profession is happening at the local level. Another interesting note is that with the UXPA international conference and some local chapters, the numbers of presentation proposals has skyrocketed the last two years. For the UXPA international conference in 2012, they received 209 submissions and had an acceptance rate of 41%, while in 2013; they received 316 submissions and had an acceptance rate of 26%. [18] The 26% submission rate was for all submissions: “the acceptance rate for panels and presentations (as a group) was less than 15%.” [19] Additionally for the Boston UXPA chapter annual conference for 2013, the rate of proposals for conference presentations was relatively stable between 2010 and 2012 and almost doubled for 2013 [20].Part of the issue with the lack of membership increase proportional to job increases within UX may be due to the fact many practitioners have less need for these organizations as they might have previously, as they believe they can obtain much of the needed professional connection through other methods. A generational component amongst ‘Gen Y/Millennial’ might well be part of this issue with reduced numbers in professional societies and associations. Additionally, as the technical communication and user experience professions continue to become more diffused and diverse, these organizations might be deemed too niche to adequately address practitioner’s increasing needs. The UPA/UXPA has made several attempts at usability and UX certification and it proved so controversial with the membership community that it has been abandoned several times the last few years. evolves with technological and societal changes.
  • BT Slidehanges in Technical CommunicationsAs experienced educators and practitioners in communications, there are exciting developments that provide opportunities in our field. The opportunities are there for people to get the academic background they need for exciting career positions. There are many alternatives for communities of practice. Some of these are professional societies and some are less formal. Venues where researchers and industry can meet are increasingly popular and in desperate need as the field changes at astronomical speed .EducationThis rapid evolution in the change and expectations of technical communicators has been reflected in academic programs as well. At one well-known university, the traditional technical communication curriculum has been revamped in the last few years to reflect this new reality. Writing is still a core component of the program, but not the only core. For example, within this program, several advanced writing classes have been eliminated or revamped considerably to offer courses on usability and user experience and information architecture. Courses in content strategy will be offered as electives starting next year as well [12]. Almost every course in this program has a goal that each student’s final project will be a potential work-portfolio quality piece they could use in a potential job interview. Several other well-known universities that teach both undergraduate and graduate programs in technical communication have shifted their focus and even their names to a more encompassing title and less restrictive than solely technical communication.  JobsAlthough the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in their Occupational Outlook Handbook listed the term ‘Technical Writers’ as positive for job outlook for 2010-2020 [13]. How this prediction plays out, specifically within the IT, software, and Web industries is unknown. There has been a substantial decrease in the jobs and job opportunism for technical communicators over the past decade, with the past five years being particularly constricted. This change is both part of the restructuring of the industry that was systematic and happening before the UX boom and exacerbated by the rapid growth of UX too – often at the expense of technical communication positions. Bloch’s article [14] surveying career paths in technical communication quoted a student being interviewed about future jobs in technical communication that summed up the current employment landscape well: “Any tech communications interns would need to have very strong skills in usability, human factors research, or interaction design.”An examination of recent job postings on a variety of job posting locations shows a broader set of responsibilities and expectations being given to UX and Content Strategy positions over those posted for Technical Communicator. Additionally, many of the descriptions and responsibilities traditionally associated with technical communication are now being included within UX positions, often at the expense of technical communications, as we have understood the profession the past several decades. Some of the prominent UX educational programs and degrees for UX have drawn a significant proportion of potential students from the technical communication profession.Increasingly, the job profiles are indicating a broad set of responsibilities with a strong understanding of business processes with an emphasis on positive end-user experience (that is measurable) [15]. Professional Societies and AssociationsAs mentioned earlier, the change and particular decline in the numbers of membership numbers within professional societies and associations has been significant. It is clear this is due to a number of factors: some due to overall changes within organizations and some due to systemic issues within particular organizations. Upon discussion with both senior members of the STC and the UPA/UXPA, some interesting trends were uncovered.  Upon talking with the STC central office, their membership peaked in the 1999/200 time frame with about 22,000 members and the last several years membership has fallen to about 5,000 members. That decline has been significant and due to many factors, but the rapid change in the technical communication profession no doubt has influenced this reduction. STC has taken varying steps to both respond to this change and also create additional revenue streams to compensate for this loss of membership income as well as creating new professional and educational opportunities for both members and persons interested in aspects of technical communication. [16]Due to many factors, there is not a single professional society or organization for UX professionals. The largest three organizations for practitioners in the field include the Human Factors & Ergonomic Society (HFES), the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA/UXPA). HFES has traditionally catered to human factors and ergonomics. IxDA has a focus on UX, but it is more of a design-focused organization for practitioners. The UPA/UXPA is an organization whose membership is mostly practitioners working within industry and encompasses many of the emerging fields of UX that include usability, information architecture, user research, design, and content. Discussions with the UXPA President revealed some interesting trends regarding membership at the international level. Membership peaked in 2008, dropped in 2009 and has been somewhat level since then at about 2300-2500 dues paying members. [17] So membership has remained stable but “what HAS grown is the number of UXPA chapters and their relative size. But we don’t have accurate numbers on that because not all chapters report their membership rosters or numbers to us [17].” Several of the UXPA chapters have annual conferences themselves (outside of the international conference), particularly Boston and Dallas, and each of those conferences in 2012 had more attendees than the international conference, and there were over 500 attendees at each conference. Much of the growth within the UX profession is happening at the local level. Another interesting note is that with the UXPA international conference and some local chapters, the numbers of presentation proposals has skyrocketed the last two years. For the UXPA international conference in 2012, they received 209 submissions and had an acceptance rate of 41%, while in 2013; they received 316 submissions and had an acceptance rate of 26%. [18] The 26% submission rate was for all submissions: “the acceptance rate for panels and presentations (as a group) was less than 15%.” [19] Additionally for the Boston UXPA chapter annual conference for 2013, the rate of proposals for conference presentations was relatively stable between 2010 and 2012 and almost doubled for 2013 [20].Part of the issue with the lack of membership increase proportional to job increases within UX may be due to the fact many practitioners have less need for these organizations as they might have previously, as they believe they can obtain much of the needed professional connection through other methods. A generational component amongst ‘Gen Y/Millennial’ might well be part of this issue with reduced numbers in professional societies and associations. Additionally, as the technical communication and user experience professions continue to become more diffused and diverse, these organizations might be deemed too niche to adequately address practitioner’s increasing needs. The UPA/UXPA has made several attempts at usability and UX certification and it proved so controversial with the membership community that it has been abandoned several times the last few years. evolves with technological and societal changes.
  • BT SlideOnly increased exponentially since 2002!THOUGHTS OF AUDIENCE?
  • CSL Slide BT SlideWith your neighbor, identify what you believe to be technology and industry trends. Identify the critical skills a graduating TC student needs today. What skills are employers looking for?
  • CSL Slide Technical communication program examples in Massachusetts 1980s – 2000s FROM 3 programs to 1 – and WHY??? Went 100% online – bigger UX Stuff SEO Optimization More intedisciplinaryStudents today want an additional credential with this – to help with promotion or increased visibility. EducationThis rapid evolution in the change and expectations of technical communicators has been reflected in academic programs as well. At one well-known university, the traditional technical communication curriculum has been revamped in the last few years to reflect this new reality. Writing is still a core component of the program, but not the only core. For example, within this program, several advanced writing classes have been eliminated or revamped considerably to offer courses on usability and user experience and information architecture. Courses in content strategy will be offered as electives starting next year as well [12]. Almost every course in this program has a goal that each student’s final project will be a potential work-portfolio quality piece they could use in a potential job interview. Several other well-known universities that teach both undergraduate and graduate programs in technical communication have shifted their focus and even their names to a more encompassing title and less restrictive than solely technical communication.  
  • CSL Slide JobsAlthough the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in their Occupational Outlook Handbook listed the term ‘Technical Writers’ as positive for job outlook for 2010-2020 [13]. How this prediction plays out, specifically within the IT, software, and Web industries is unknown. There has been a substantial decrease in the jobs and job opportunism for technical communicators over the past decade, with the past five years being particularly constricted. This change is both part of the restructuring of the industry that was systematic and happening before the UX boom and exacerbated by the rapid growth of UX too – often at the expense of technical communication positions. Bloch’s article [14] surveying career paths in technical communication quoted a student being interviewed about future jobs in technical communication that summed up the current employment landscape well: “Any tech communications interns would need to have very strong skills in usability, human factors research, or interaction design.”An examination of recent job postings on a variety of job posting locations shows a broader set of responsibilities and expectations being given to UX and Content Strategy positions over those posted for Technical Communicator. Additionally, many of the descriptions and responsibilities traditionally associated with technical communication are now being included within UX positions, often at the expense of technical communications, as we have understood the profession the past several decades. Some of the prominent UX educational programs and degrees for UX have drawn a significant proportion of potential students from the technical communication profession.Increasingly, the job profiles are indicating a broad set of responsibilities with a strong understanding of business processes with an emphasis on positive end-user experience (that is measurable) [15].
  • BT SlideJobsAlthough the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in their Occupational Outlook Handbook listed the term ‘Technical Writers’ as positive for job outlook for 2010-2020 [13]. How this prediction plays out, specifically within the IT, software, and Web industries is unknown. There has been a substantial decrease in the jobs and job opportunism for technical communicators over the past decade, with the past five years being particularly constricted. This change is both part of the restructuring of the industry that was systematic and happening before the UX boom and exacerbated by the rapid growth of UX too – often at the expense of technical communication positions. Bloch’s article [14] surveying career paths in technical communication quoted a student being interviewed about future jobs in technical communication that summed up the current employment landscape well: “Any tech communications interns would need to have very strong skills in usability, human factors research, or interaction design.”An examination of recent job postings on a variety of job posting locations shows a broader set of responsibilities and expectations being given to UX and Content Strategy positions over those posted for Technical Communicator. Additionally, many of the descriptions and responsibilities traditionally associated with technical communication are now being included within UX positions, often at the expense of technical communications, as we have understood the profession the past several decades. Some of the prominent UX educational programs and degrees for UX have drawn a significant proportion of potential students from the technical communication profession.Increasingly, the job profiles are indicating a broad set of responsibilities with a strong understanding of business processes with an emphasis on positive end-user experience (that is measurable) [15].
  • BT SlideJobsAlthough the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in their Occupational Outlook Handbook listed the term ‘Technical Writers’ as positive for job outlook for 2010-2020 [13]. How this prediction plays out, specifically within the IT, software, and Web industries is unknown. There has been a substantial decrease in the jobs and job opportunism for technical communicators over the past decade, with the past five years being particularly constricted. This change is both part of the restructuring of the industry that was systematic and happening before the UX boom and exacerbated by the rapid growth of UX too – often at the expense of technical communication positions. Bloch’s article [14] surveying career paths in technical communication quoted a student being interviewed about future jobs in technical communication that summed up the current employment landscape well: “Any tech communications interns would need to have very strong skills in usability, human factors research, or interaction design.”An examination of recent job postings on a variety of job posting locations shows a broader set of responsibilities and expectations being given to UX and Content Strategy positions over those posted for Technical Communicator. Additionally, many of the descriptions and responsibilities traditionally associated with technical communication are now being included within UX positions, often at the expense of technical communications, as we have understood the profession the past several decades. Some of the prominent UX educational programs and degrees for UX have drawn a significant proportion of potential students from the technical communication profession.Increasingly, the job profiles are indicating a broad set of responsibilities with a strong understanding of business processes with an emphasis on positive end-user experience (that is measurable) [15].
  • CSL Slide Professional Societies and AssociationsSTC Upon talking with the STC central office, their membership peaked in the 1999/200 time frame with about 22,000 members and the last several years membership has fallen to about 5,000 members. That decline has been significant and due to many factors, but the rapid change in the technical communication profession no doubt has influenced this reduction. STC has taken varying steps to both respond to this change and also create additional revenue streams to compensate for this loss of membership income as well as creating new professional and educational opportunities for both members and persons interested in aspects of technical communication. [16]UXDue to many factors, there is not a single professional society or organization for UX professionals. The largest three organizations for practitioners in the field include the Human Factors & Ergonomic Society (HFES), the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA/UXPA). HFES has traditionally catered to human factors and ergonomics. IxDA has a focus on UX, but it is more of a design-focused organization for practitioners. The UPA/UXPA is an organization whose membership is mostly practitioners working within industry and encompasses many of the emerging fields of UX that include usability, information architecture, user research, design, and content. Discussions with the UXPA President revealed some interesting trends regarding membership at the international level. Membership peaked in 2008, dropped in 2009 and has been somewhat level since then at about 2300-2500 dues paying members. [17] So membership has remained stable but “what HAS grown is the number of UXPA chapters and their relative size. But we don’t have accurate numbers on that because not all chapters report their membership rosters or numbers to us [17].” Several of the UXPA chapters have annual conferences themselves (outside of the international conference), particularly Boston and Dallas, and each of those conferences in 2012 had more attendees than the international conference, and there were over 500 attendees at each conference. Much of the growth within the UX profession is happening at the local level. Another interesting note is that with the UXPA international conference and some local chapters, the numbers of presentation proposals has skyrocketed the last two years. For the UXPA international conference in 2012, they received 209 submissions and had an acceptance rate of 41%, while in 2013; they received 316 submissions and had an acceptance rate of 26%. [18] The 26% submission rate was for all submissions: “the acceptance rate for panels and presentations (as a group) was less than 15%.” [19] Additionally for the Boston UXPA chapter annual conference for 2013, the rate of proposals for conference presentations was relatively stable between 2010 and 2012 and almost doubled for 2013 [20].Part of the issue with the lack of membership increase proportional to job increases within UX may be due to the fact many practitioners have less need for these organizations as they might have previously, as they believe they can obtain much of the needed professional connection through other methods. A generational component amongst ‘Gen Y/Millennial’ might well be part of this issue with reduced numbers in professional societies and associations.
  • CSL Slide BT SlideProfessional Societies and AssociationsSTC Upon talking with the STC central office, their membership peaked in the 1999/200 time frame with about 22,000 members and the last several years membership has fallen to about 5,000 members. That decline has been significant and due to many factors, but the rapid change in the technical communication profession no doubt has influenced this reduction. STC has taken varying steps to both respond to this change and also create additional revenue streams to compensate for this loss of membership income as well as creating new professional and educational opportunities for both members and persons interested in aspects of technical communication. [16]UXDue to many factors, there is not a single professional society or organization for UX professionals. The largest three organizations for practitioners in the field include the Human Factors & Ergonomic Society (HFES), the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA/UXPA). HFES has traditionally catered to human factors and ergonomics. IxDA has a focus on UX, but it is more of a design-focused organization for practitioners. The UPA/UXPA is an organization whose membership is mostly practitioners working within industry and encompasses many of the emerging fields of UX that include usability, information architecture, user research, design, and content. Discussions with the UXPA President revealed some interesting trends regarding membership at the international level. Membership peaked in 2008, dropped in 2009 and has been somewhat level since then at about 2300-2500 dues paying members. [17] So membership has remained stable but “what HAS grown is the number of UXPA chapters and their relative size. But we don’t have accurate numbers on that because not all chapters report their membership rosters or numbers to us [17].” Several of the UXPA chapters have annual conferences themselves (outside of the international conference), particularly Boston and Dallas, and each of those conferences in 2012 had more attendees than the international conference, and there were over 500 attendees at each conference. Much of the growth within the UX profession is happening at the local level. Another interesting note is that with the UXPA international conference and some local chapters, the numbers of presentation proposals has skyrocketed the last two years. For the UXPA international conference in 2012, they received 209 submissions and had an acceptance rate of 41%, while in 2013; they received 316 submissions and had an acceptance rate of 26%. [18] The 26% submission rate was for all submissions: “the acceptance rate for panels and presentations (as a group) was less than 15%.” [19] Additionally for the Boston UXPA chapter annual conference for 2013, the rate of proposals for conference presentations was relatively stable between 2010 and 2012 and almost doubled for 2013 [20].Part of the issue with the lack of membership increase proportional to job increases within UX may be due to the fact many practitioners have less need for these organizations as they might have previously, as they believe they can obtain much of the needed professional connection through other methods. A generational component amongst ‘Gen Y/Millennial’ might well be part of this issue with reduced numbers in professional societies and associations.
  • CSL Slide BT SlideCertificationResult – does certification matter with the field so radically modifying quickly?
  • BT SlideUniversities need to prepare graduating students for their future careers. The TC skills will allow them to grow to be a strategic communicator. This is what industry is looking for. Leadership can be technological and personal. Successful professionals can be highly influential. You won’t see a Vice President of Technical Communications, but you will see a Vice President of User Experience.
  • BT SlideChanges in Technical Communications
  • CSL Slide The 1,000 page manual is dead. Writing more is not an option – The just in case to just enough model
  • CSL Slide The 1,000 page manual is dead. Writing more is not an option – The just in case to just enough model
  • CSL Slide BT Slide

Technical Communication on Life Support: UX and Content Strategy are the Reclamation! Technical Communication on Life Support: UX and Content Strategy are the Reclamation! Presentation Transcript

  • Technical Communication on Life Support UX & Content Strategy are the Reclamation! Christopher S. LaRoche Senior Adjunct Lecturer College of Professional Studies (CPS) Northeastern University Brian Traynor Associate Professor Faculty of Communication Studies Mount Royal University
  • • 2000 KM apart – why are we presenting together? • Our backgrounds • Evolution of our history and work together • How and why we arrived here and at this particular conclusion
  • • The merging of technical communication with the Usability/User Experience (UX) field has broadly been happening the last few years. • We discussed this several years ago at Twente, but UX and now Content Strategy has further evolved with technology and business changes. • Failure to recognize and embrace these changes will hasten technical communication‟s marginalization.
  • • Changes we describe in our presentation and paper are primarily happening within software and Web organizations. These organizations are at the forefront of where there is an increasingly emphasis placed on user experience, content strategy, and costs/cost reduction. • As a result, our teaching and communication programs must adapt and reflect this change to remain relevant and functioning.
  • • In 2010 we stated: “the era of „just in case‟ documentation is dead, while the era of „just enough‟documentation has dawned.” • Now content strategy is even further refining and changing this concept.
  • • Broadly speaking, Content Strategy is the idea of having all [or most] organizational content (marketing, press releases, customer support documentation, traditional technical communication, etc.) delivered to (primarily) external audiences in a consistent, clear, and efficient manner. • „Content Strategy‟ – and it is often tied into the rise of UX and associated with usability and UX.
  • • Content Strategy definition (states one expert): “Content strategy: planning for the creation, aggregation, governance, and expiration of useful, usable, and brand-appropriate content in an experience.” (Bloomstein, Your Key To Connection Without Creepiness)
  • • Structurally, TC has been changing over the last decade due to a variety of reasons: • Increasing importance of design rationale • Compressed development schedules • Reduced resources allocated to Documentation • Desire for more usable, minimalist, and personalized documentation • Assumption all content is available online and user expectation of no cost for this content • Single sourcing
  • • The last few years have sped up this evolution – and increased the speed of the structural changes that were already underway • Adapting to this change within TC is critical to remain relevant – for academics & practitioners.
  • Technology trends • ? Skills needed to support trends • ?
  • • Expectation that students have an (online) portfolio to showcase their skills and capabilities. • For more specialized positions - highly technical and single sourcing is expected. • Web and mobile design and development is expected & critical. • Work experience allows students to be mentored by practicing professionals.
  • • Anecdotally – TC jobs vanishing or being morphed into other position descriptions (LinkedIn, Monster, etc.) • Want to investigate this further over the next year or two with more data on job changes.
  • • Monster.ca • 71 positions, 6 last week • IEEE.org • Only one position in Eng Comm • XML, DITA, tech • Writing excellence • Customer
  • • Monster.ca • 776 positions, 4 last week • 2 – 4 years experience • Portfolio • Wireframes, code • Business analysis • Graphic design • User Experience/UX
  • STC – membership decline last decade UXPA – international membership steady • Interesting issues with societies • Local chapters • Generation Y/Millennial
  • IxDA – volunteer based with large membership HFES – academically- focused with large membership
  • • Technical Communication (STC) Started in 2011 • Usability & UX (UPA/UXPA) Two attempts but great resistance • HFI – commercial entity offering usability certification. Controversial within UX field • Academic programs offering degrees …
  • • Compressed development cycles • Commodification of TC • Outsourcing (domestic and abroad) • Reduced resource allocation for TC • Higher demands for user satisfaction • Reducing delivered content requirement (both from a cost and volume perspective) • More increase in awareness and „buy in‟ of UX and Content Strategy – offer solutions to management
  • • Traditional technical communication skills are demanded and required: solid writing skills, technological inquisitiveness, critical thinking, etc. • Understanding UX and Content Strategy is becoming increasingly requested/required • Documentation continues to exist – but must be radically different than have been done in the past: streamlined, visuals, videos, etc. More words or another user manual is not an option!
  • • Let‟s discuss how our presentation mapped to your understanding and needs! • What successes have you had with your students so we can learn from you. • What influence do you think social media communications present to TC?
  • • Now we want to hear from you! What do you think about the approaches presented? • Do you agree, disagree? • Let‟s continue the discussion: – c.laroche@neu.edu – btraynor@mtroyal.ca