A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Typography is the study and process of typefaces; how to select, size, arrange, and use them in general. Traditionally, typography was the use of metal types with raised letterforms that were inked and then pressed onto paper. In modern terms, typography today also includes computer display and output.



Aligning Theme and Information Structure To Improve The Readability Of Technical Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The readability of technical writing, and technical manuals in particular, especially for second language readers, can be noticeably improved by pairing Theme with Given and Rheme with New. This allows for faster processing of text and easier access to the "method of development" of the text. Typical Theme-Rheme patterns are described, and the notion of the "point of a text" is introduced. These concepts are applied to technical writing and the reader is then invited to evaluate the improvements in readability in a small sample of texts.

Moore, N.A.J. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2006). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Rhetoric


Aligning UX Issues’ Levels of Severity with Business Objectives

Over the past several years, I’ve grown increasingly dissatisfied with the vague and somewhat solipsistic nature of the gradations UX professionals typically use to describe the severity of usability issues. High, medium, and low don’t begin to sufficiently explain the potential brand and business impacts usability issues can have.

Sherman, Paul J. UXmatters (2010). Articles>User Experience>Assessment>Business Case


Aligning UX Issues’ Levels of Severity with Business Objectives

Over the past several years, I’ve grown increasingly dissatisfied with the vague and somewhat solipsistic nature of the gradations UX professionals typically use to describe the severity of usability issues. High, medium, and low don’t begin to sufficiently explain the potential brand and business impacts usability issues can have. After incrementally iterating on several existing classifications of severity, I finally decided in late 2008 to simply create some new ones, which I’ll present in this column. For lack of a better term, I call them business-aligned usability ratings.

Sherman, Paul J. UXmatters (2010). Articles>User Experience>Usability>Assessment


Aligning Yourself with a Cause

When your organization lacks a compelling cause, you can at least take comfort in the idea that you’re pursuing your calling or vocation. Aligning with your calling is ideal, but this can be an issue for technical writers, because almost no one feels that technical writing is a calling.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Collaboration


Alignment Diagrams: Focusing the Business on Shared Value

All too often companies are focused on their own processes, wrapped up in a type of organizational navel gazing. They simply don’t know what customers actually go through. What’s more, logical solutions can cross departmental lines. Ideal solutions may require crossing those boundaries. An organization’s rigid decision making makes that difficult. Here’s where I believe IAs and UX designers can use our skills to make a difference. We have the ability to understand and to map out both business processes and the user experience. Visual representations can provide new insight into solutions that appeal to a range of stakeholders. Alignment diagrams are a key tool to do this.

Kalbach, James. Boxes and Arrows (2012). Articles>Business Communication>Usability>Charts and Graphs


All About Madcap Flare

Madcap Flare is one of the most powerful online help authoring tools on the market today. In this podcast, Paul Pehrson, MVP in the Madcap Software forums, talks about Madcap Flare in depth.

Pehrson, Paul and Tom H. Johnson. Tech Writer Voices (2008). Articles>Documentation>Software>Madcap Flare


All About Output from DITA Maps

Using Adobe FrameMaker 9, one can save a DITA Map in various formats depending on one’s requirements. It could be intermediary output, like – FrameMaker Book/Document; or it can be final output, like – Print/PDF.

Adobe (2009). Articles>Information Design>XML>DITA


All Advice on How to Manage Creative People is Awful

A good manager is someone who makes everyone feel like he or she is creative in their work. Because creative work is the most fulfilling work, and we are each capable of that kind of work.

Trunk, Penelope. Brazen Careerist (2009). Articles>Management>Collaboration


All Business Students Need to Know the Same Things! The Non-Culture-Specific Nature of Communication Needs   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article challenges the conventional approach to cross-cultural communication teaching that instructs students to adapt their communication styles to different cultures by providing them with details about the particular practices of these cultures. It argues for an approach that focuses on common principles of effective communication by pointing out some limitations of the current culture-specific approach and presenting a pilot study that indicates the commonality of communication needs. It suggests some ways to find a different approach for studying international communication and shows that some current research is, in fact, moving in that direction.

Goby, Valerie Priscilla. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (1999). Articles>Business Communication>International


All Hail Shale: Shale Isn't Struts

What Shale isn't is a shrink-wrapped, well-documented, well-tested product complete with an automated installer and a polished management interface. Now find out what it is, as Brett McLaughlin unveils this mighty -- and rightful-- heir to the legacy of Struts. In this first of a five-part series, Brett explains what Shale is, how it's different from the Struts framework, and how to install and set it up in your development environment.

McLaughlin, Brett D. IBM (2006). Articles>Web Design>Programming


All the Secrets to Generating Creativity in Literature

NOT for the timid--here are proven, guaranteed, simple ways to create writing that is off-the-wall original. Why be mediocre? Now you can quickly and easily become innovative, bizarre, and distinctive. The "born writer" theorists and "author-worshipers", the non-deconstructionists, will HATE this article.

Streight, Steven. Blogger.com (2004). Articles>Writing


The "All Together" Rule for Intranets

The primary purpose of intranets is to support staff in doing their jobs, to help them complete common business tasks. In practice, however, this can be very frustrating on many intranets. Policies are located in one section, procedures in another section, and forms in a third. Information then needs to be hunted out in order to complete even simple activities. The effectiveness of intranets can be greatly enhanced by bringing together all of the information and tools relating to a task or a subject, and presenting them in a single location.

Robertson, James. Step Two (2005). Articles>Web Design>Intranets>Information Design


All Tools Suck

On top of the usual frustrations with poor, incomplete, and incorrect implementation of standards and typically buggy and poorly-supported programs, add my frustration with trying to integrate these tools with other similarly joyful tools and you can see that my job is a recipe for bitterness and pain.

Kimber, Eliot. Dr. Macro's XML Rants (2006). Articles>Software>Standards>XSL


All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: Some Ethical Guidelines for User Experience in Ubiquitous-Computing Settings

Essay on the threat and promise of ubicomp: It should be clear that ubicomp represents a substantial raising of stakes; that its field of operation is by definition total; and that its potential for harm is such that the user experience is too important to leave to chance.

Greenfield, Adam. Boxes and Arrows (2005). Articles>Technology


Allowing for Personal Choice -- HTML or Text E-Mail

When you ask readers whether they want your e-mail newsletter in HTML or text e-mail, be sure to honor their preference.

Allen, Cliff. Allen.com (2001). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email


The Almighty Thud

Why do we bother with models or documentation? They don't execute, and our customers pay us for working code, not pretty pictures. We bother with models to communicate. The idea is that a graphical object model can show how objects fit together more clearly than looking at the source, an interaction diagram can show a collaboration better than figuring out the call path from several class definitions. But so often the design documentation fails in this, and leaves me puzzled on my sofa.

Fowler, Martin. MartinFowler.com (1997). Articles>Documentation>Agile>Extreme Documentation


An Almost Final Farewell to Desktop Word Processing

The era of desktop publishing is over, and I must bid Microsoft Word and several other desktop applications good-bye. In case you think I'm singling out Microsoft, it's not just MS Word, but also OpenOffice, GoogleOffice, or any application that makes what we used to call 'documents'. Nowadays, I'm simply using a wiki for collaborative information sharing and a blog for online reporting.

Albing, Bill. Carolina Communique (2007). Articles>Word Processing>Online>Wikis


(Almost) Never Add a Reset Button to a Form

Next time you consider adding a reset button to a form, think it through very carefully first. Does the user really benefit from being able to reset the form? Is being able to reset the form to its initial state so valuable that it is worth the risk of the user losing the data they have entered? Probably not.

456 Berea Street (2009). Articles>Web Design>Forms>Usability


Alphabetical Sorting Must (Mostly) Die

Ordinal sequences, logical structuring, time lines, or prioritization by importance or frequency are usually better than A–Z listings for presenting options to users.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2010). Articles>Information Design>Web Design>Usability


Alphabetizing an Index

It is important to alphabetize your index in a consistent manner. Otherwise, your readers may become confused or miss an important entry. There are two basic ways to alphabetize, or sort, an index: word by word; letter by letter.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>Editing


An Alternative to a Master's Program   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

Discussions concerning the structure of technical communication programs raise a multitude of questions: how do we include both theory and practice? How much theory is appropriate for a program in an applied area? What do our students need and want? How can we meet our students’ needs and ourown academic goals? These questions can become even more intense when they relate to master’s degree programs and the demanding students they attract. We are faced with decisions about what thenature of a master’s program in technical communication should be.

Allen, Nancy J. CPTSC Proceedings (2001). Articles>Education>Graduate


Alternative Ways to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Intranet Sites

When you measure hits on inter/intranet sites, you are measuring overall volume of usage -- how many times parts of your site have been opened. However, hits don't distinguish between the opening of an entire page or a single illustration. There are many additional ways of measuring usage. However, measuring the "userability" of a site is just as important in order to improve usage numbers. But the first place any communicator should start when measuring the effectiveness of electronic communications is to identify the original objectives for putting something on-line. Conducting some baseline audience research upfront to make sure your electronic solutions will be as effective as possible and then measuring afterward to see if the intended objectives are being met.

Sinickas, Angela D. Sinickas Communications (2000). Articles>Web Design>Intranets>Log Analysis


Alternative Ways to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Publications

If you want to go beyond the usual limits of a traditional readership survey that tells you how well received a publication is, first clarify your objectives. Then you might include additional "impact" questions on your next survey, conduct in-depth focus groups with readers, and conduct some objective, "audience-free" measurements of the publication to see how well those objectives were met.

Sinickas, Angela D. Sinickas Communications (1998). Articles>Management>Communication>Assessment


Alternatives to Formatting XML Editors for Creating Structured Information

XML editors have traditionally been modeled after the first SGML editor written in 1985, a long time before creating, managing, and distributing structured information was well understood. Now, nearly 20 years later, there are more choices for users interested in creating structured information. Specifically, this presentation discusses alternatives that include Web-based distributed collaborative XML document creation, "tag-free" tools, non-formatting structured editors, and even using common office tools in creating your XML documents.

Daldt, Dale. IDEAlliance (2004). Articles>Software>Information Design>XML


Alternatives to Software Documentation

Software documentation such as Help systems and user guides may be the best method of helping your customers to use your software effectively. However, one or more of these alternatives may be a better solution.

Unwalla, Mike. TechScribe (2007). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help



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