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Bernard Aschwanden
www.publishingsmarter.com
bernard@publishingsmarter.com
Minimalism
Write Less. Write Better.
20:07
1
@p...
About this session
20:07@publishsmarter
2
 Basics of minimalism
 Light examples
 Serious ideas
Tech Comm 101: Know your audience
20:07@publishsmarter
3
 Here because nothing else you had planned looked
good?
 It’s I...
Housekeeping and note taking
20:07@publishsmarter
 Not all slides or topics are
equally weighted
 Use some, discard othe...
About your speaker
20:07@publishsmarter
 Publishing Smarter:
President
 Content strategist,
publishing technologies
expe...
Standard disclaimer
20:07@publishsmarter
 In the interest of brevity I
will make some blanket
statements to keep it
simpl...
The irony is that I need 150 slides
(well, maybe not THAT many…)
@publishsmarter 20:07
7
Core principles of minimalism
Ideals of minimalism
20:07@publishsmarter
8
 To the largest extent possible, a product should
document itself and do so
...
History of minimalism
20:07@publishsmarter
9
 Developed for graphical user interfaces (GUI) and
grew out of a need for gr...
Interface versus documentation
20:07@publishsmarter
10
 Minimalism originally applied to the GUI
 Documentation borrowed...
Core principles of minimalism
20:07@publishsmarter
11
1. Focus on an action-oriented approach
 Tasks are core to what peo...
My suggestion: Factor in today’s audience
20:07@publishsmarter
12
 Today’s audience is
 More engaged  Interactive
 Eag...
1. Action oriented approach
20:07@publishsmarter
13
 Provide an immediate opportunity to act
 Ensure tasks are front and...
I presented in Edmonton, Alberta 1 day…
20:07@publishsmarter
14
… text didn’t do what I thought it should…
20:07@publishsmarter
15
 Our site does not officially support your browser. Fe...
…this is what the airline did the NEXT day
20:07@publishsmarter
16
Is this respect for the integrity of the user’s action
20:07@publishsmarter
17
Good Great minimalist writing and design
20:07@publishsmarter
18
“Provide an immediate opportunity to act”
20:07@publishsmarter
19
Tasks are
front and
center!
“Encourage/support exploration and innovation”
20:07@publishsmarter
20
Access to help,
and no painful
step-by-step
“Respect the integrity of the user’s activities”
20:07@publishsmarter
21
Focused links,
support the
goals
Recap: Action oriented approach
20:07@publishsmarter
22
 Provide an immediate opportunity to act
 Ensure tasks are front...
2. Anchor tool in the task domain
20:07@publishsmarter
23
 Select or design instructional activities that are real
tasks
...
Good and bad of real tasks
20:07@publishsmarter
24
3. Error recognition and recovery
20:07@publishsmarter
25
 Prevent mistakes whenever possible
 Provide error information...
Dumb error recognition/recovery
20:07@publishsmarter
26
Good error recognition/recovery
20:07@publishsmarter
27
More good error recognition/recovery
20:07@publishsmarter
28
4. Read to do, study, and locate
20:07@publishsmarter
29
 Be brief, don’t spell out everything
 Users don’t need every b...
Be brief, don’t spell out everything
20:07@publishsmarter
 Rather than text
 The breather is located on
top of the pump ...
Being brief can include better organization
20:07@publishsmarter
31
 Supported formats include:
 JPEG: Joint Photographi...
Good: Organize information
20:07@publishsmarter
32
 A comparison of sizes tells you that whales are big:
 The average US...
Best: Images provide data AND scale
20:07@publishsmarter
33
18’
6’ / 2m
98’
< 6’
Be consistent in writing
20:07@publishsmarter
34
 Don’t “mix it up”
 Select File > New
 Choose File > New
 Click File ...
Be consistent when you orient users
20:07@publishsmarter
35
Don’t bury information
20:07@publishsmarter
36
 Learning’s complex enough
 People clutter docs with:
 Screen shots
 Un...
Deliver what is relevant. The end.
20:07@publishsmarter
37
No Yes
Provide closure in tasks
20:07@publishsmarter
 This sample is horrible
1. Select File > Open
The Open dialog
appears
2. C...
Recap: Read to do, study, and locate
20:07@publishsmarter
39
 Be brief, don’t spell out everything
 Users don’t need eve...
Tips to get you started on minimalism
@publishsmarter 20:07
40
Reworking source content
Work with images: Text heavy, mixed source
20:07@publishsmarter
It has been said a picture is
worth 1000 words. If this is...
Remember: Tasks come first
20:07@publishsmarter
It has been said a picture is
worth 1000 words. If this is
true, it makes ...
Repeat for concepts
20:07@publishsmarter
It has been said a picture is
worth 1000 words. If this is
true, it makes sense t...
And for references
20:07@publishsmarter
It has been said a picture is
worth 1000 words. If this is
true, it makes sense to...
Consider using highlighters!
20:07@publishsmarter
45
Now, the task title reads: Import pictures
20:07@publishsmarter
46
Images, maps, and charts can be
added to web pages.
Pre...
Concept title: Reasons to use pictures
20:07@publishsmarter
47
It has been said a picture is worth 1000
words; use images ...
Reference title: Supported image formats
20:07@publishsmarter
48
Graphic types, how they are used,
and background informat...
Summing up the discussion,
and options to continue it.
@publishsmarter 20:07
49
Conclusion and contact
About this session
20:07@publishsmarter
50
 Basics of minimalism
1. Focus on an action-oriented approach
2. Anchor the to...
Services
20:07@publishsmarter
 We help clients:  By helping clients:
51
Follow up contact information
20:07@publishsmarter
52
905 833 8448 (Eastern Time)
bernard@publishingsmarter.com
www.linked...
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Minimalism for Silicon Valley STC

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Basics of minimalism
Light examples
Serious ideas

As presented at STC Silicon Valley. With samples both fun and serious.

Published in: Business
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Minimalism for Silicon Valley STC

  1. 1. Bernard Aschwanden www.publishingsmarter.com bernard@publishingsmarter.com Minimalism Write Less. Write Better. 20:07 1 @publishsmarter
  2. 2. About this session 20:07@publishsmarter 2  Basics of minimalism  Light examples  Serious ideas
  3. 3. Tech Comm 101: Know your audience 20:07@publishsmarter 3  Here because nothing else you had planned looked good?  It’s IHOP. This IS where I’d be on a Monday!  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. Housekeeping and note taking 20:07@publishsmarter  Not all slides or topics are equally weighted  Use some, discard others  Slides speed varies (reference)  Questions? Ask any time!  I’d love to claim errors/typos is on purpose… they isn’t, weren’t never, and ain’t; I’ll fix ‘em as I can… 4
  5. 5. About your speaker 20:07@publishsmarter  Publishing Smarter: President  Content strategist, publishing technologies expert, author, and geek- enough  Certified Technical Trainer  DITA  Content management  Topic-based writing  Society for Technical Communication  Vice President  STC Associate Fellow 5
  6. 6. Standard disclaimer 20:07@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) 6
  7. 7. The irony is that I need 150 slides (well, maybe not THAT many…) @publishsmarter 20:07 7 Core principles of minimalism
  8. 8. Ideals of minimalism 20:07@publishsmarter 8  To the largest extent possible, a product should document itself and do so  Explicitly, or  By being intuitive through good design  We have to ensure documentation and product design fit together to let the 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
  9. 9. History of minimalism 20:07@publishsmarter 9  Developed for graphical user interfaces (GUI) and grew out of a need for great usability  Minimalism can be applied to tech writing as well (standards like Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA), or more casually)  Similar theory: less is more
  10. 10. Interface versus documentation 20:07@publishsmarter 10  Minimalism originally applied to the GUI  Documentation borrowed from this  Not all ideas have 100% transfer
  11. 11. Core principles of minimalism 20:07@publishsmarter 11 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”
  12. 12. My suggestion: Factor in today’s audience 20:07@publishsmarter 12  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
  13. 13. 1. Action oriented approach 20:07@publishsmarter 13  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.
  14. 14. I presented in Edmonton, Alberta 1 day… 20:07@publishsmarter 14
  15. 15. … text didn’t do what I thought it should… 20:07@publishsmarter 15  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
  16. 16. …this is what the airline did the NEXT day 20:07@publishsmarter 16
  17. 17. Is this respect for the integrity of the user’s action 20:07@publishsmarter 17
  18. 18. Good Great minimalist writing and design 20:07@publishsmarter 18
  19. 19. “Provide an immediate opportunity to act” 20:07@publishsmarter 19 Tasks are front and center!
  20. 20. “Encourage/support exploration and innovation” 20:07@publishsmarter 20 Access to help, and no painful step-by-step
  21. 21. “Respect the integrity of the user’s activities” 20:07@publishsmarter 21 Focused links, support the goals
  22. 22. Recap: Action oriented approach 20:07@publishsmarter 22  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
  23. 23. 2. Anchor tool in the task domain 20:07@publishsmarter 23  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
  24. 24. Good and bad of real tasks 20:07@publishsmarter 24
  25. 25. 3. Error recognition and recovery 20:07@publishsmarter 25  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
  26. 26. Dumb error recognition/recovery 20:07@publishsmarter 26
  27. 27. Good error recognition/recovery 20:07@publishsmarter 27
  28. 28. More good error recognition/recovery 20:07@publishsmarter 28
  29. 29. 4. Read to do, study, and locate 20:07@publishsmarter 29  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
  30. 30. Be brief, don’t spell out everything 20:07@publishsmarter  Rather than text  The breather is located on top of the pump and is usually capped in black.  Consider this instead:  Rather than text  The butterfly valve is located between the main tank and the exhaust pipe.  Consider this instead: 30
  31. 31. Being brief can include better organization 20:07@publishsmarter 31  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
  32. 32. Good: Organize information 20:07@publishsmarter 32  A comparison of sizes tells you that whales are big:  The average US male is 5’9”  The average US female is 5’4”  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 Human being 5’7” Beluga whale 18’ Blue whale 98’
  33. 33. Best: Images provide data AND scale 20:07@publishsmarter 33 18’ 6’ / 2m 98’ < 6’
  34. 34. Be consistent in writing 20:07@publishsmarter 34  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
  35. 35. Be consistent when you orient users 20:07@publishsmarter 35
  36. 36. Don’t bury information 20:07@publishsmarter 36  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. Open the folder
  37. 37. Deliver what is relevant. The end. 20:07@publishsmarter 37 No Yes
  38. 38. Provide closure in tasks 20:07@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 38
  39. 39. Recap: Read to do, study, and locate 20:07@publishsmarter 39  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
  40. 40. Tips to get you started on minimalism @publishsmarter 20:07 40 Reworking source content
  41. 41. Work with images: Text heavy, mixed source 20:07@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. Remember: Tasks come first 20:07@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. Repeat for concepts 20:07@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. And for references 20:07@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. 44
  45. 45. Consider using highlighters! 20:07@publishsmarter 45
  46. 46. Now, the task title reads: Import pictures 20:07@publishsmarter 46 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.
  47. 47. Concept title: Reasons to use pictures 20:07@publishsmarter 47 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.
  48. 48. Reference title: Supported image formats 20:07@publishsmarter 48 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.
  49. 49. Summing up the discussion, and options to continue it. @publishsmarter 20:07 49 Conclusion and contact
  50. 50. About this session 20:07@publishsmarter 50  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
  51. 51. Services 20:07@publishsmarter  We help clients:  By helping clients: 51
  52. 52. Follow up contact information 20:07@publishsmarter 52 905 833 8448 (Eastern Time) bernard@publishingsmarter.com www.linkedin.com/in/bernardaschwanden @publishsmarter www.publishingsmarter.com

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