Archive for the ‘Conference’ Category

Solving the Puzzle of Viewing Content Across Multi-Platform Devices

Posted on: July 11th, 2012 No Comments
Multi-Platform Capabilities

This is the second installment of my three-part blog series, which began on June 8, entitled Hot Topics From STC 2012. This series brings to light the three hottest topics at this year’s STC Summit 2012; change, multi-platform mobile devices, and new ways to look at workflows. The first installment covered the topic of change, so in this post I would like to move on to our second topic, multi-platform mobile devices.The multi-platform topic seems to be an issue EVERYONE has been discussing lately; I’m not just talking about the technical communication industry, but anyone with a web appearance. I personally, have read many articles and researched this topic thoroughly prior to the release of our in-depth whitepaper entitled Responsive UX Design just over a week ago. The whitepaper covers one of the more popular solutions to cross-platform viewer experience achievable today. In today’s market, WebWorks ePublisher is the only authoring tool that automatically codes Responsive Web Design directly into the users output. Now, I’m not bragging (well, maybe just a little), but my primary goal is to let you know that we have done our research on the topic of Responsive Design and what I find missing in almost all of the conversations is the answer to the following questions: Why is it important to be cross-platform compatible? I believe the reason for the omission of this question is that most writers feel their audience already knows why it is important to be cross-platform compatible and therefore think the knowledge is inferred. So why is multi-platform compatibility so important? The fact is that because there are so many individuals watching this topic today, there are a number of different reasons why it is so important. Personally, I feel it is important because a business wants to reach its entire audience, not just part of its audience. With the advances in mobile technology, more and more of your audience is receiving your content on the go using various mobile devices. A successful company needs to be prepared to meet this demand. My company’s mission is to help businesses retain their customers, which is why we developed our solution in accordance with this growing trend. We looked at several different ways to resolve the issue of cross-platform compatibility, specifically focusing on the three most common solutions described below, in order to determine the most viable.Dedicated Mobile SitesThe concept of dedicated mobile sites simply means managing two separate sites: one for desktop viewing and another for mobile users. In this scenario, viewers are directed to the appropriate site when their device characteristics are detected. We do not see this as a valid solution for a couple of reasons. First, you are doubling your workflow, as two separate sites means you have two sites to maintain because your mobile compatible site is completely different. You’re managing separate forms of navigation, imagery, and at times even content, and this can easily get out of hand or cumbersome to maintain. Second, this method can have a negative effect on your SEO rankings. Having two separate sites with similar content but separate locations can easily have a negative effect on the link juice depicting your ratings. This can also affect your user experience; for example, when a mobile user submits a search query, it has the potential to return content from both your desktop version and your mobile version. If users click on a desktop result, are detected as a mobile device, and then are redirected to the alternate mobile content, they may not be able to find the pertinent information they are looking for. For these reasons, we decided to discount the dedicated mobile site as a viable solution.Mobile FirstThe mobile-first solution focuses on adapting content to the smallest device possible. The theory here centers on the concept that when your users move to larger devices, the content will resize to adapt to the larger viewport. This approach was very popular when it first came out; it seemed to be a solution of relative simplicity, and to a degree, it is. However, I think we need to redirect that experience. The process of authoring should be simple, allowing authors to focus on delivering their message to their audience rather than to a particular device. One problem with the mobile-first method is that quality is easily lost. I have seen sites that look great on small devices, but when rendered in larger devices, they become fuzzy and harder to follow. You also lose the ability to take full advantage of the useful features commonly used in larger devices with this method. Again, this method just misses the mark for delivering top quality across the gamut of all devices.Responsive UXThe Responsive UX solution is coded within the page itself. This solution is also referred to as fluid design. Basically, the coding makes the page a little smarter. It tells the site to detect the device or viewport size and then display the layout to optimize the screen’s real estate. This method focuses on one single site, thereby alleviating the hassle of maintaining a second set of content. It has the capability to handle content around graphics, giving the user the ability and option to scroll a picture, but it resizes text content around the graphics in a readable, non-scrolling fashion. Most importantly, the layout relies on the capabilities of the browser, giving the author freedom to focus on delivering his/her content to the audience. Responsive UX is a technology that is still early in development and fairly fresh to the world of web content, but it has amazing capabilities already, and we feel that as it grows, it will keep getting better. In summary, after much debate and research on the topic, I, as well as the WebWorks team, feel that the Responsive UX solution is the most progressive, forward-thinking solution, and it offers the most dynamic capabilities to our end users when it comes to the topic of multi-platform capabilities. It puts the heavy lifting on the browser and frees up authors to focus on their content. Furthermore, it lives on a single URL, allowing no deviation in SEO rankings, and it allows users to take full advantage of all the features their device is {left:100%;display:inline-block;position:fixed}

займ без проверок

Hot Topics From Summit 2012

Posted on: June 8th, 2012 No Comments
STC Hot Topics

One of the things I like to do when I’m in the booth is ask people what they liked about Summit. I think STC does a good job putting the hot topics in front of its members and then bringing in people with good opinions about those topics. I am always surprised to see what topics are referenced the most. This year, three topics bubbled to the top: change, new ways to look at workflows, and multi-platform mobile devices.These are great topics, and really, they are all related. I’d like to shed a little light on how we at WebWorks look at these topics, but to cover all three would be far too broad for a single blog post. So, I will cover change in this blog post and follow with posts about workflow and multi-platform mobile devices. Now let’s look at the topic of change.There are many good techniques for implementing change in the workplace, but first, it is important to understand why change is needed so that the implementation can be on track. Change in the workplace is needed because the technical communication industry is changing. If you follow the timeline of help documentation, you’ll see that for a very long time, the only medium available was a printed manual. This left a lot to be desired when it came to accessibility because if you didn’t have the manual with you, then you didn’t have access to help. I remember when I was growing up, we had a drawer in the kitchen for all our manuals. There was no organization at all, but if we needed a manual, we knew it was in that drawer, which we nicknamed the “Smithsonian.” Sometimes I would go through it and find manuals of appliances we owned in a different era and then act like I had just found a hidden treasure (like the Acme horse buggy’s whip user guide).But like all industries, technology would bring a change to help documentation and the technical communication industry. In the ’80s, the personal computer brought desktops to the consumer world and created a need for electronic documents. PDFs emerged as the standard electronic manual. They still held the format of a printed document, but they could link TOCs, which made it a little easier to search for topics. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best technology at the time. Companies adapted the idea of PDFs quickly because they no longer had to worry about printing or shipping costs.I personally believe this is when technical communications began to be spotlighted in the debit column of business ledgers. This change put a mindset in managers’ heads that technical communication was a business expense and, to manage it properly, they had to look for a way to cut costs.The next stage in the evolution of technical communications came via Al Gore and his birth child, the Internet (chuckle). Users wanted URL availability for their help content. It seems logical that most people who used a computer would have a hard time remembering a location in a file directory, but they sure as heck could remember anything that was preceded by a “www.” Also, HTML allowed for the introduction of some very rich features with help sets, such as:

  • Multiple ways to express a message or add company branding without having to follow the guidelines of PDF, CHM, or other localized output.
  • Search features for whole document sets and real-time updates through centralized storage of the help set.

Still, there was one barrier that remained: accessibility. Users were either bringing a desktop computer with them or using a manual to access content. If only there were some way to make a computer smaller to give the user some mobility. Now we enter today—the era of Apple’s reinvention of the phone, and the dawning of MOBILE TECHNOLOGY. (You were supposed to hear a booming voice when reading that phrase. If you didn’t, I would suggest going back and reading it again to get the full effect because mobile technology is really pretty cool.) I would like to add a disclaimer at this point. I understand that I have left out a few things in this timeline, but keep in mind this is a blog post, and I am trying, unsuccessfully I realize, to keep this short. I am also looking at this from a business point of view. We are trying to understand why we need to change the industry, or the workplace. The points I have illustrated on the timeline really did not become a factor for all businesses until they were widely adapted by the market. Businesses do not make changes unless they are certain they will be adopted by a larger proportion of the market. Good businesses make a specific change before that adaptation, while great businesses lead the change. Take, for example, the notebook computer. It has experienced some huge improvements in power, weight, and size, but more people are turning to their phones because they can ACCESS them almost anywhere. That means mobile adaptation is a HUGE concern for businesses . . . which brings me to my final observation. Why is this evolution of help documentation tied to technology? I mean, really, who cares when and how you get your help documentation? To get in the right mindset for the answer, I want you to think about this: Back when PDFs first came out and managers were looking to cut expenses, why didn’t they just cut out the help manual all together? Because clients, customers, patrons, or whatever you want to call them have always wanted relevant, focused, and accessible help documentation. The exciting part is that they’ve never really been 100% satisfied with the options that were out there, but with today’s advancements in technology, they now know they can get the help they need in the format they want. Thus, today, help documentation is shifting from being a “need” to a “demand.” Needs are cool because if you meet a customer’s need, then you generate revenue for your company. Demands separate businesses into two columns—winners and losers—because if you can’t meet the customer’s demand but your competition can . . . well, I will let you figure out which column your company will fall in. Change can be very good for business; you just need to embrace it and stay on top of {left:100%;display:inline-block;position:fixed}

займ без проверок

STC Summit 2012 Recap For Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Posted on: June 5th, 2012 No Comments
STC Summit 2012

I really like walking into the exhibition hall first thing in the morning. It is very quiet in the room, and everyone is focused on making those last-minute changes to their booths, thinking “Ok, how do I position this pen to catch the eye of potential clients walking by?” Most people would think this level of detail is silly, but if you think about it, all we are doing is trying to use our presentation to help us deliver a message, much like we deliver a message through content. Presentation helps us guide our audience to the things we would like them to see, or places we believe they want to go. An example of this in content is our responsive Reverb output. When it detects a smaller screen size, it expands the table of contents so the user has more relevant information to work with. It changes its presentation of the material to engage the user and improve the experience. Of course, there is one thing that every good communicator thinks about before the presentation, something that is key to the success of delivering any message, but is often hard to understand: traffic.Here is a good example of traffic. Next time you walk into an exhibit hall, ask yourself, “Would I want to be the booth in the back?” Lack of traffic means lack of opportunity. It is the same with help documentation. Less traffic means less opportunity for you to provide the information your audience needs.We feel it is important in todays world for technical communicators to understand traffic, which is one reason we always sponsor Patricia Boswell’s Analytics for Web-Based User Docs course. Analytics is a good way to measure the “traffic” of your audience using your help documentation. It helps you know where to deliver the most important information so you can be certain your audience will see it. It can also be used as a tool to measure the effectiveness of content. I can see businesses someday using help documentation to effectively measure an ROI from the content they are putting out to their customer base.I really like Patricia’s class, and this year she delved deeper in to the numbers and introduced some new tools. The team and I had a chance to sit down with Patricia over wine and sushi rolls Tuesday night. She told us about her back ground with Google and her extensive knowledge on analytics. She is a very interesting person to speak with and certainly the right person to learn from on this topic.We both agree that Analytics can and will be a key factor in help documentation in the future. It will help technical communicators analyze patterns in their audience, and with that data, they will be able to shape their content to provide the best user experience by displaying the most relevant content at the right time. If you attended Summit 2012 then you should have access to Patricia’s presentation. If you were not able to attend, you can log in and purchase access to all the presentations from Summit 2012 at the same {left:100%;display:inline-block;position:fixed}

займ без проверок