As simple as the concept of backing up your work might be, I am constantly surprised when I hear from even veteran Captivate developers that a project has become corrupt (the project, which was fine yesterday, won't open today). The fix? If the project won't open, there's a good chance that the only thing anyone can do is copy a backup project to the local disk and then open the backup. Oh, you don't have a backup? Ouch!
Multimedia has proven its ability to sell products and educate users. But can it also perform tasks traditionally done with conventional paper documents? Yes. This demonstration shows how several hardware and software documents were converted to multimedia and provides a plan for converting your documents. You learn whether to display, speak, or just eliminate existing text. You see how to replace action words, descriptions of motion, and arrows with animation. YOU see how sound can guide rather than distract the user. You also learn to use interactivity to give control to the user. Along the way you see the compromises needed to keep the project on schedule, within budget, and down to size.
An online tutorial or demo is a powerful way to pique interest and get users started on a new software program. Join a workshop that covers the how-to’s of creating your first project. (1) Make a plan. (2) Analyze audience needs and technical issues. (3) Form a team. (4) Write the script. (5) Design the interface. (6) Build it. (7) Test it.
Although you can position a camera above the phone and record actions on any screen, that kind of recording process limits you considerably. I think it’s more difficult to edit raw video than to edit a screen recording, since a screen recording allows you to more easily manipulate, hide, or add screen elements as needed. I also recommend using emulators or screen recording apps whenever possible because they usually result in clearer recordings.
The availability of powerful yet easy-to-use multimedia tools enables technical writers to consider a powerful new form of embedded user assistance: show-me help. This paper provides an overview of who is currently using show-me help--some current research, some history, and some definitions. It offers some guidance in choosing tools, designing show-me help, and deciding when to include then, concentrating on consideration of your users, potential topics, subsequent releases, and translation. It also suggests how show-me helps can be reused as part of product education and single-sourced into user assistance from the Web.
Typographical errors and grammatical blunders affect the aesthetic appeal of documentation, and common belief is that they affect usability too. Many readers, however, seem not to notice such errors unless they are very frequent or flagrant. We thought it would be interesting, and perhaps useful, to test experimentally the effect of such errors on users’ perception of the information and on their performance with the product that the information supports the product.
Although videos have been traditionally used for technical training, traditional technical communications take the form of user manuals, help documentation, and instructional guides. Technology has arguably blurred the lines between “traditional” technical communications materials and “traditional” technical training materials. Technical writing has begun to morph with technical training. The once-clear difference between documentation and training now lends itself to the ever-growing trend of super hybrids. Just do a search for “technical writer” or “instructional designer” on any popular job search engine; you’ll find that the title “Technical Writer” today requires us to understand and create job aids, e-learning content, and learning management systems along with all the traditional user manuals, audience analysis, and usability testing.
Michael Pick’s screencasts on WordPress.tv are, in my opinion, perfect screencasts. They’re the best I’ve seen — and I’m not just saying this because the video quality is crisp and the audio is rich. Pick blends filmography techniques with screencasting. Instead of the typical screencast that focuses almost entirely on the screen, with a disembodied voice narrating at length around a cursor’s boring movement, Pick fills his screencasts with eye candy and motion, moving from visual to visual as he narrates, giving you a conceptual understanding more than a detailed nitty-gritty how-to.
This weekend I had to replace the solenoid in my Frigidaire Gallery refrigerator. The solenoid controls the flow of water into the ice maker, among other things. I’m not a technician, so when I received the new solenoid and looked at the instructions, I was a little hesitant to do what the text said. The text instructions took 30 seconds to read, whereas a YouTube video I found took 9 minutes to watch. But since I was unfamiliar with the process, I preferred the video to make sure I was doing the task right.
As the web transitions from a relatively static, information-oriented environment to a highly interactive, task-oriented environment, web developers must provide on-demand user assistance to ensure the usability of their applications.
Miller, a technical editor at Microsoft interested in multimedia documentation, talks about why multimedia documentation is a growing trend and how writers can get started. He discusses Microsoft's Channel 9 and the human element with instructional screen demos.
Last week Google released Google Voice, a service that allows you to integrate all your phones into one number and includes a host of features, including voice mail, recording, conference calling, and other services. To help users get started, Google Voice has a list of 20 short videos. Only the overview video contains animation. It’s certainly the video they’ve put the most work into, and it also functions as marketing collateral.
Creating video tutorials is no trivial task. When you sit down to create 20+ video tutorials for a project, you’re faced with dozens of questions. What screen size should the videos be, what recording tool should you use, what microphone is best, how long should the videos be, what file size is acceptable? Should you use voice or captions? Where will you create the recording? You can create video tutorials using dozens of different methods. There are no official steps to create videos, because situations and audiences vary so widely.
Although there will always be a need for people to explain technical material non-technical people, Ellis Pratt said, others may be doing it instead, through the formats users prefer. To survive, technical writers may need to morph into content strategists, managing the information in a systematic way rather than merely creating it.
When I talk to most technical writers, video is a format they haven’t done much with. This surprises me, because I find that, as a user, video tutorials are often the most helpful type of material for me to learn software. Video most closely simulates the universal desire we have for a friend to show us how to do something in an application. Perhaps I’m a visual learner, but the majority of us (some say 60 to 65 percent) are visual learners. But video doesn’t appeal only to end users. Video can be an appealing format for technical writers as well. Creating videos can turn your career around, especially if you find technical writing a little dull.
The following is a conversation I’m calling, “I need your help with some documentation.” The project manager represents a compilation of all the crazy things project managers have said to me over the years.
Multimedia is commonplace in entertainment and the Internet is proliferating the use of multimedia in electronic materials. Online documentation has traditionally been composed of text and some graphics. The proliferation of Intranets and online documentation is pushing the acceptance of multimedia in reference and procedural materials like Help. However, there is little research on the value of multimedia in online documentation nor its effective use.This paper describes an exploratory study done for a Master of Information Science thesis to determine the impact of multimedia on online documentation.
Digital video (DV) is relatively easy and inexpensive to produce and has an expanding role in technical communication. It is a powerful media for communication and can be included in favorite online formats such as WinHelp, HTML help, Acrobat (PDF), and web pages, as well as training presentations produced with tools such as Asymmetrix Toolbook and Macromedia Authorware. Delivery of DV spans a range of electronic media including CD, DVD, and the Internet. New technology offers the potential to synchronize the presentation of video, audio, and other multimedia forms. This paper introduces DV concepts. It gives practical tips for investing in DV equipment and producing video and audio.
Multimedia can add another dimension to electronic documentation (Help and manuals) and computer-based training. The process of planning and developing a multimedia project draws on new skill sets. This workshop focusses on the key role of the technical writer as writer, designer, and project manager.
Multimedia can add another dimension of information to online documentation. This progression discusses the optimum methods of presenting information (text, graphics, multimedia) and the planning and design process.
In this podcast, rich media specialist Todd O’Neill explains how to add video to your training and documentation deliverables. Many technical writers are intimidated by the learning curve, equipment costs, and software they think they need to create video, but actually you can create engaging videos with minimal equipment (e.g., $150 for a Flip video camera) and using software you probably already have (e.g, Windows Movie Maker or iMovie). In this podcast, Todd lays out the basics for those who know nothing about video. He explains the equipment you need, techniques for minimizing editing time, ways to publish the video online, filming techniques to focus on, and creative ways to package your video for your users.