Some of you know what I do, as we’ve been working together for a while. Others aren’t so sure. So, I thought it might be instructive to give you all a short presentation as to what I do and what I can do for you.
I’ve had the title content developer, technical writer, technical communicator, and others. They sound different, but they all involve the same thing – using skills such as investigating, writing, testing, and revising. Anyone can learn these skills—they’re not innate.
These skills come together to communicate a message. Did you know that more than 80% of end users don’t read documentation? Instead, they opt to search when they get stuck. That’s when good user assistance can head off errors. The higher the answer surfaces in a search, the quicker the user is back to work. Talking about support costs, industry figures for cost per incident range from just under a dollar to over $40 each. If we can help the user learn and recover from any mistakes, we can reduce support calls and costs.
Some of the items I’ve created or worked on include… For Help, I use one set of files per product. Using conditional text, build tags, and other features in Flare I can generate multiple, targeted Helps without duplication.
So how do we do this? How can we help the user? We can provide comprehensive, well-written, and accurate online Help that presents solutions, procedures, and a way out to users. This format has been in use since the 1980s. It’s a good system, especially with a robust, full-text search.
Another way is using the Help Center or Help Portal. This is a good system if your user base relies on Search, has had standardized training and if the application is fluid. Evergreen content draws the user in and educates them. Incidentally, both the traditional Help and the Help Center approaches can be tailored to the needs of each customer. Using Flare, our authoring tool, we can product one basic Help and add or remove topics depending on customer needs.
Another way is using the Help Center or Help Portal. This is a good system if your user base relies on Search, has had standardized training and if the application is fluid. Evergreen content draws the user in and educates them. Incidentally, both the traditional Help and the Help Center approaches can be tailored to the needs of each customer. Using Flare, our authoring tool, we can product one basic Help and add or remove topics depending on customer needs
Online training and courses, product training videos, and other electronic tools videos let a user learn at her own pace. They’re also good refreshers on procedures.
And then there is PDF documentation. For the most part, printed, bound documentation is dead. Most companies no long produce it except as “on-demand,” fulfilled product.
I’ve also done software testing and assisted with the UI/UX. UI/UX design is one of the most important – and neglected – parts of software design. Good UI/UX can pay dividends in streamlined documentation and training, and getting users up to speed much, much faster.
So what does that mean for those of you I haven’t worked with yet?
I’m using a lot of different tools to do this…
We all have tasks we do regularly. Whether it is building articles to test, backing up data, checking a queue to make sure things are running smoothly, they all have common features. They are repetitive and can be done by others if needs be. But you can’t take the time to train them when you need to hand the task off. Work instructions can help here. We can even create them as videos.
Quick references, instruction cards, wall charts – job aids are easy to produce and distribute. They target one topic, one issue, and help users remember procedures and processes.
Presenting solutions to users before they submit a JIRA ticket can help reduce the support burden. We can do this with many of the existing tools we use daily. And they’re not just for the end user. Using them for internal processes is a great way to distribute knowledge.
There’s a lot of institutional and group knowledge that must be captured, organized, and distributed. The right information or procedures are no good if they’re difficult to locate. Multiple versions of the same documents need to be curated. This knowledge is a critical SJS asset and needs to be nurtured.
What kind of documents do you do? What kind do you want to do?
Language is a design tool. When you design content for products, you’re building an experience with words. It’s the intersection of language, empathy, architecture, interaction design, and code all within the context of a product: an experience that helps people solve problems.
What does Steve do?
What does Steve do over there?
Content Developer | Technical Writer | Technical Communicator
Whatever the title, it involves a lot of skills, including interviewing, observing,
questioning, suggesting, writing, editing, and lots of revising. Over and over.
I say skills instead of talents. I think that these are methods and techniques that
can be taught, learned, and reinforced.
It is all used to communicate a message, help the
user recover from errors, and reduce support.
I also test ArticleExpress, and provide
support for it. I also give feedback
and suggestions on UI/UX issues.
The User Interface is one element of
the User Experience. UI design is
about user-friendliness and the
efficiency of the interface. UX is
more about how the user feels when
using the software. The interface
plays a role in the experience, but so
do human factors, information
architecture, user-centered design,
personas, and more.
While UX is important for any digital
product, it is even more important
for complex applications such as
ARTEMIS and ArticleExpress.
Work instructions help others do a
task they're not familiar with. They
are learning aids that present a
sequence of steps to execute a task
or activity. The format is typically
text, but a visuals and videos of the
steps can aid in understanding.
Work instructions are also a big part
of a Quality System.
What are the tasks you do now that
might be handed off to others?
Job Aids and Infographics
Job aids get targeted information
across quickly and efficiently.
There’s no need to search, look
up, or try and remember what the
topic might be.
Infographics communicate lots of
dense information in easy to
Including links to a Knowledge
Base in documentation and
support sites helps to empower
the user. When looking for the
answer, the user is required to
focus on the problem and may
solve it by a search. This makes
for a more confident user--and a
better use of support resources.
There is a lot of institutional
knowledge here. We need to
make better, more efficient
use of this information.
•Present & Syndicate