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Rocky Mountain STC: Minimalism

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Write less. Write better. It’s not just about doing away with words, but instead, improving the user experience by presenting the right information, at the right time, in the right format, to the right audience, and allowing them to make the right decision to stop reading content and start doing what they need to do. From search tools to airlines to the use of clear images, tables, or words, the goal of this session is to help you understand the right things to do to spend less time writing, and more time helping your company, your clients, and your readers reduce headaches and increase profits. See samples, join the discussion, and keep your words to a minimum.

Published in: Education

Rocky Mountain STC: Minimalism

  1. 1. Bernard Aschwanden www.publishingsmarter.com bernard@publishingsmarter.com Minimalism Write Less. Write Better. 12:08 1 @publishsmarter
  2. 2. About this session 12:08@publishsmarter 2  Basics of minimalism  Light examples  Serious ideas
  3. 3. Tech Comm 101: Know your audience 12:08@publishsmarter 3  Here because nothing else you had planned looked good?  It’s STC. This IS where I’d be on a Thursday!  Here because the topic is something you  Have a basic interest in?  Have a lot of interest in?  Love more than almost anything else on earth?  Already generally familiar with this topic?
  4. 4. About your speaker 12:08@publishsmarter  Publishing Smarter: President  Content strategist, publishing technologies expert, author, and geek- enough  Certified Technical Trainer  DITA  Content management  Topic-based writing 4
  5. 5. Standard disclaimer 12:08@publishsmarter  In the interest of brevity I will make some blanket statements to keep it simple  It’s not all 100% “the truth”, but I’ll stay close  Purists may complain  And they are wrong!  (except when they are right) 5
  6. 6. The irony is that I need 150 slides (well, maybe not THAT many…) @publishsmarter 12:08 6 Core principles of minimalism
  7. 7. Ideals of minimalism 12:08@publishsmarter 7  To the largest extent possible, a product should document itself and do so  Explicitly, or  By being intuitive through good design  Documentation and product design must fit together to let a user make the right decision on use, because we provide:  the right information  at the right time  in the right format  to the right audience
  8. 8. History of minimalism 12:08@publishsmarter 8  Developed for graphical user interfaces (GUI) and grew out of a need for great usability  Documentation borrowed from this  Not all ideas have 100% transfer  Minimalism can be applied via standards like DITA  Similar theory: less is more
  9. 9. Core principles of minimalism 12:08@publishsmarter 9 1. Focus on an action-oriented approach  Tasks are core to what people are doing, so let them do it! 2. Anchor the tool in the task domain  Ensure you understand the users’ world 3. Support error recognition and recovery  Recognize the importance of troubleshooting information 4. Support reading to do, study, and locate  Ensure that users can find the information they need • Carroll, J. “Minimalism Beyond the Nurnberg Funnel”
  10. 10. My suggestion: Factor in today’s audience 12:08@publishsmarter 10  Today’s audience is  More engaged  Interactive  Eager  Easily bored/misled/lost  Today’s audience engages/interacts  Not by being interested in what you write, deliver, or say  Not by talking to you (or your people) very often  Is engaged and interacts with present and future audiences, and can impact perception  What you do now is noticed  What you did then is found  What you do in the future depends on both
  11. 11. 1. Action oriented approach (let’s explore) 12:08@publishsmarter 11  Provide an immediate opportunity to act  Ensure tasks are front and center, and that they start with the first steps, NOT with a lot of extra content. People want to DO things.  Encourage and support exploration and innovation  Don’t feed users every action. If it’s obvious, move on. If the task is simple and the audience known, don’t include it, or summarize it.  Respect the integrity of the user’s activities  Keep the relevant info nearby, but don’t link them to a bunch of random seeming places; instead support them in completing the task  In content, prioritize ‘how to’ (tasks) early  Use other content (concepts and references) to support tasks  In tools, let people do what they intend to do  Don’t put up roadblocks and obstacles. Ever. For any reason.
  12. 12. I presented in Edmonton, Alberta 1 day… 12:08@publishsmarter 12
  13. 13. … text didn’t do what I thought it should… 12:08@publishsmarter 13  Our site does not officially support your browser. Feel free to explore with it, but you may not be able to use all our features.  You may want to update your browser. Consider using one of the following:  Microsoft Internet Explorer (download now)  Mozilla Firefox (download now)  If you have questions or encounter problems, please call our Sales Super Centre at 1-800-538-5696.  From 114 words to 65 ~40% reduction  Message is cleaner, easier to understand  Translation costs decrease  Message changes to taking away blame
  14. 14. …this is what the airline did the NEXT day 12:08@publishsmarter 14
  15. 15. Is this respect for the integrity of the user’s action 12:08@publishsmarter 15
  16. 16. Good Great minimalist writing and design 12:08@publishsmarter 16
  17. 17. “Provide an immediate opportunity to act” 12:08@publishsmarter 17 Tasks are front and center!
  18. 18. “Encourage/support exploration and innovation” 12:08@publishsmarter 18 No painful step-by- step Access to relevant info
  19. 19. “Respect the integrity of the user’s activities” 12:08@publishsmarter 19 Focused links, support the goals
  20. 20. Recap: Action oriented approach 12:08@publishsmarter 20  Provide an immediate opportunity to act  Ensure tasks are front and center, and that they start with the first steps, NOT with a lot of extra content. People want to DO things.  Encourage and support exploration and innovation  Don’t feed users every action. If it’s obvious, move on. If the task is simple and the audience known, don’t include it, or summarize it.  Respect the integrity of the user’s activities  Keep the relevant info nearby, but don’t link them to a bunch of random seeming places; instead support them in completing the task
  21. 21. 2. Anchor tool in the task domain (let’s explore) 12:08@publishsmarter 21  Select or design instructional activities that are real tasks  If you document something, do so from the perspective of doing something, not just documenting for the sake of features  Components of the instruction should reflect the task structure  Organize the content so that it follows a natural progression based on the tasks users actually perform
  22. 22. Good and bad of real tasks 12:08@publishsmarter 22
  23. 23. 3. Error recognition and recovery (let’s explore) 12:08@publishsmarter 23  Prevent mistakes whenever possible  Provide error information when actions are error prone or when correction is difficult  Provide error information that supports detection, diagnosis, and recovery  Provide on-the-spot error information
  24. 24. Dumb error recognition/recovery 12:08@publishsmarter 24
  25. 25. Good error recognition/recovery 12:08@publishsmarter 25
  26. 26. More good error recognition/recovery 12:08@publishsmarter 26
  27. 27. 4. Read to do, study, and locate 12:08@publishsmarter 27  Be brief, don’t spell out everything  Users don’t need every bit of information about every bit of functionality PLUS the entire backstory  Be consistent  Write things the same way in files, across publications  Don’t bury important content  If it matters THAT much, make it stand out; if it doesn’t matter, don’t bother writing it  Provide closure in tasks  Where needed, let people know it’s done if there isn’t a natural way to know they are finished
  28. 28. Be brief, don’t spell out everything 12:08@publishsmarter  Replace text  The breather is located on top of the pump and is usually capped in black.  Consider this instead:  Replace text  The butterfly valve is located between the main tank and the exhaust pipe.  Consider this instead: 28
  29. 29. Being brief can include better organization 12:08@publishsmarter 29  Supported formats include:  JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group (common on the web)  AI: Adobe Illustrator (A vector format for line drawings, but can be converted to other formats as well) Extension Type Notes jpeg Joint Photographic Experts Group Common web format ai Adobe Illustrator Vector format for line drawings
  30. 30. Good: Organize information 12:08@publishsmarter 30  A comparison of sizes tells you that whales are big:  The average US male is 5’9” tall  The average US female is 5’4” tall  The average Beluga whale is 18’ long  The average Blue whale is 98’ long  A table can tell you the same thing Mammal Length/height (avg) Human being 5’7” Beluga whale 18’ Blue whale 98’
  31. 31. Best: Images provide data AND scale 12:08@publishsmarter 31 18’ 6’ / 2m 98’ < 6’
  32. 32. Be consistent when you write 12:08@publishsmarter 32  Don’t “mix it up”  Select File > New  Choose File > New  Click File > New  On the File menu, select/choose/click New  This will NOT help your users
  33. 33. Be consistent when you orient users 12:08@publishsmarter 33
  34. 34. Be consistent when you organize 12:08@publishsmarter 34 Learning’s complex enough  People clutter docs with:  Screen shots  Unneeded images  Useless text  Readers don’t have time  They want to just do the job  Stop telling them everything you (or the SME) knows Stop nesting (burying) tasks 1. Select File > Save As The Save dialog appears. 2. Select a location 3. If required, create a folder a) Click New Folder A new folder is created b) Type a name for the folder c) Press Enter 4. Choose a file format  RTF: Rich Text Format  DOC: Microsoft Word document  FM: Adobe FrameMaker file 5. Name the file and click Save.
  35. 35. Save a file Create a folder 1. Select File > Save As 2. Select a location 3. Choose a file format 4. Name the file 5. Click Save 1. Click New Folder 2. Type a name for the folder 3. Press Enter Much better would be 12:08@publishsmarter 35
  36. 36. Deliver what is relevant. The end. 12:08@publishsmarter 36 No Yes
  37. 37. Provide closure in tasks 12:08@publishsmarter This sample is horrible 1. Select File > Open The Open dialog appears 2. Choose a location Available files display 3. Select a file The file is highlighted 4. Click Open The file opens and displays onscreen Drop useless results 1. Select File > Open 2. Select location/filetype 3. Click Open Provide closure when it’s not totally obvious. ONLY. 1. Press Ctrl+s The asterisk by the page number is cleared Unsaved Saved 37
  38. 38. Recap: Read to do, study, and locate 12:08@publishsmarter 38  Be brief, don’t spell out everything  Users don’t need every bit of information about every bit of functionality PLUS the entire backstory  Be consistent  Write things the same way in files, across publications  Don’t bury important content  If it matters THAT much, make it stand out; if it doesn’t matter, don’t bother writing it  Provide closure in tasks  Where needed, let people know it’s done if there isn’t a natural way to know they are finished
  39. 39. Tips to get you started on minimalism @publishsmarter 12:08 39 Reworking source content
  40. 40. Work with images: Text heavy, mixed source 12:08@publishsmarter It has been said a picture is worth 1000 words. If this is true, it makes sense to use images to show ideas, visualize things, or to add life to dry text. You can add images in supported formats to web pages. To insert images first select where you want in on your web page. Choose Insert in the Image menu. There are many image formats supported (web formats), and since pictures draw the eye to a specific location, you may want to add maps or charts. If maps or charts are used they can visually explain ideas that may take many pages to write about. They can even make content feel more alive, so if it makes sense, add them to reports to accentuate an idea that matters. Once you know the format you need, select a file location and click Map or Chart if needed. We support jpg, gif, png, svg (and we convert Illustrator or Photoshop too!). Click on a file, then Insert. 40
  41. 41. Remember: Tasks come first 12:08@publishsmarter It has been said a picture is worth 1000 words. If this is true, it makes sense to use images to show ideas, visualize things, or to add life to dry text. You can add images in supported formats to web pages. To insert images first select where you want in on your web page. Choose Insert in the Image menu. There are many image formats supported (web formats), and since pictures draw the eye to a specific location, you may want to add maps or charts. If maps or charts are used they can visually explain ideas that may take many pages to write about. They can even make content feel more alive, so if it makes sense, add them to reports to accentuate an idea that matters. Once you know the format you need, select a file location and click Map or Chart if needed. We support jpg, gif, png, svg (and we convert Illustrator or Photoshop too!). Click on a file, then Insert. 41
  42. 42. Repeat for concepts 12:08@publishsmarter It has been said a picture is worth 1000 words. If this is true, it makes sense to use images to show ideas, visualize things, or to add life to dry text. You can add images in supported formats to web pages. To insert images first select where you want in on your web page. Choose Insert in the Image menu. There are many image formats supported (web formats), and since pictures draw the eye to a specific location, you may want to add maps or charts. If maps or charts are used they can visually explain ideas that may take many pages to write about. They can even make content feel more alive, so if it makes sense, add them to reports to accentuate an idea that matters. Once you know the format you need, select a file location and click Map or Chart if needed. We support jpg, gif, png, svg (and we convert Illustrator or Photoshop too!). Click on a file, then Insert. 42
  43. 43. And for references 12:08@publishsmarter It has been said a picture is worth 1000 words. If this is true, it makes sense to use images to show ideas, visualize things, or to add life to dry text. You can add images in supported formats to web pages. To insert images first select where you want in on your web page. Choose Insert in the Image menu. There are many image formats supported (web formats), and since pictures draw the eye to a specific location, you may want to add maps or charts. If maps or charts are used they can visually explain ideas that may take many pages to write about. They can even make content feel more alive, so if it makes sense, add them to reports to accentuate an idea that matters. Once you know the format you need, select a file location and click Map or Chart if needed. We support jpg, gif, png, svg (and we convert Illustrator or Photoshop too!). Click on a file, then Insert. 43
  44. 44. Consider using highlighters! 12:08@publishsmarter 44
  45. 45. Now, the task title reads: Import pictures 12:08@publishsmarter 45 Images, maps, and charts can be added to web pages. Prereq: Ensure graphics are in a supported web-friendly file format. 1. Select the location to insert an image. 2. Select Image > Insert. If inserting a Map or Chart, specify this. 3. Select a folder location. 4. Select a file. 5. Click Insert. 6. Configure the image as needed.
  46. 46. Concept title: Reasons to use pictures 12:08@publishsmarter 46 It has been said a picture is worth 1000 words; use images to show ideas, visualize complex ideas, or to add life to dry text. Pictures draw the eye to a specific location. If maps or charts are used they can graphically explain an idea that may take many pages to write about. They can even make content feel more alive, so if it makes sense, add them to reports to accentuate an idea that matters.
  47. 47. Reference title: Supported image formats 12:08@publishsmarter 47 Graphic types, how they are used, and background information. Format Function Notes .jpg Raster based images displayed online (web). Our conversion tools allow multiple options, test for best compatibility. .gif .png .svg Vector based images displayed online (web) Our conversion tools allow multiple options, test for best compatibility. .ps Adobe Photoshop Raster based source. .ai Adobe Illustrator Vector based source.
  48. 48. Summing up the discussion, and options to continue it. @publishsmarter 12:08 48 Conclusion and contact
  49. 49. About this session 12:08@publishsmarter 49  Basics of minimalism 1. Focus on an action-oriented approach 2. Anchor the tool in the task domain 3. Support error recognition and recovery 4. Support reading to do, study, and locate  Light examples  Serious ideas
  50. 50. Services 12:08@publishsmarter 50
  51. 51. Follow up contact information 12:08@publishsmarter 51 905 833 8448 (Eastern Time) bernard@publishingsmarter.com www.linkedin.com/in/bernardaschwanden @publishsmarter www.publishingsmarter.com

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