A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Design>Documentation

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1.
#35856

Access is Good

Yesterday we launched a new version of our developer community website. It doesn’t have many ‘community’ features as yet but that’s all to come. One thing it does now have is an HTML version of all of our product documentation, in an easily searchable format. This new format of the product documentation is largely to move us away from PDF only documentation. At present we still have a set of PDFs but they aren’t particularly usable.

McLean, Gordon. One Man Writes (2009). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Documentation

2.
#13775

Adding User Annotations to Help Topics

This article discusses a feature called User Annotations, whereby users can add their own custom notes to Help topics, and presents a method for implementing it in web pages or in HTML Help topics.

Gash, Dave. WritersUA (2002). Design>Documentation

3.
#31893

Analyzing Your Users and Needs Before Creating the Help Deliverables; Interview with Nicky Bleiel

In this podcast, Nicky Bleiel says we should talk to as many users as we can — conducting on-site visits, sending surveys, gathering information from Marketing, Support, and other departments — so we can have a better understanding of our users’ needs and the formats and mediums that will work best for them. After completing this audience and needs analysis, we can then go out and create the deliverables that will best serve our users.

Bleiel, Nicky and Tom H. Johnson. Tech Writer Voices (2008). Articles>Interviews>Documentation>User Centered Design

4.
#19917

Applying Object-Oriented Design Concepts to Web Publishing   (PDF)

This is a story of how one internal project at Sun Microsystems migrated printed user and reference documentation to an internal Web site. The principle architect of this site discusses how she applied object-oriented design concepts to the Web architecture to accommodate many learning styles simultaneously. As important as the successes of this project are its failures, which offer some insight into when and how to use the World Wide Web as a communication vehicle in your overall communication strategy.

Hoft, Nancy L. STC Proceedings (1996). Design>Documentation>Web Design

5.
#28228

Applying Web 2.0 Technologies to Technical Documentation

This article is based on my presentation at the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators' annual conference in October, 2006. Every now and then, there is a change in the value of what technical authors deliver. These are moments when organisations pay attention to technical documentation. This is because they recognise that these changes mean they can create something that will be of real value to the business and to their customers. In recent years, there have been three "waves of interestingness". The first wave was the introduction of Windows Help (WinHelp). The second major wave was the introduction of the Internet and intranets. This was a time when organisations looked at how they could transfer large amounts of information from paper to online. They were faced with issues such as how users could access and understand all this information easily - issues that technical communicators deal with on a day-to-day basis. I believe we're just about to approach the new wave, which we have called "Tech Writing 2.0".

Pratt, Ellis. Cherryleaf (2006). Articles>Web Design>Documentation>Technical Writing

6.
#36467

Applying Web 2.0 to Technical Documentation

This article is based on my presentation at the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators' annual conference, in October 2006, on new trends in technical authoring. It covers the application of Web 2.0 technologies to technical documentation.

Windows 7 Help and Resources (2006). Articles>Documentation>Web Design>Social Networking

7.
#31780

Are We Giving Readers What They Want, in the Way They Want and Need It?

With all the talk about Web 2.0 and the attendant technologies, are readers actually being better served by documentation now than they were in the past?

DMN Communications (2008). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>User Centered Design

8.
#14837

Automating Development Tasks for a Large-Scale Help System

Although tools like eHelp's® RoboHELP® Classic can speed up and streamline the process of creating help topics, there are still many repetitive tasks needed to build a WinHelp system that supports a large, integrated application. This article summarizes one of the techniques that Fredrickson Communications used to automate the process of developing online help topics. Once the underlying structure and macros were in place, we were able to generate hundreds of help topics at the rate 15-20 per minute.

Lindsay, Bill. Frederickson Communications (2002). Design>Documentation>Single Sourcing>Adobe RoboHelp

9.
#14416

Balancing Act: Keeping Your Screen Movies Small and Beautiful

Screen recordings are a valuable tool for enhancing training, tutorials, manuals and websites. Companies use this technique to produce streaming and downloadable content. The recording tools are readily available and affordable. In this article, we explore some techniques, tips and tricks for recording sound, mouse movement and happenings from your screen to an AVI file. We will talk in both general terms and use specific examples. The examples pertain to HyperCam, a downloadable screen recording application from Hyperionics Technology. Like most screen recording applications, HyperCam captures the action from your Windows screen -- including cursor movements and sound -- and saves it to an AVI movie file.

Rice, William H. IV. WilliamRice.com (2002). Design>Documentation>Multimedia>Screencasting

10.
#29987

Beyond Software Manuals and On-line Help: Interactive Help

Software user guides have traditionally provided assistance when the user requested help. Context-sensitivity enabled help systems to predict the most appropriate topic to present. For Windows applications, the move from Microsoft WinHelp to the new Microsoft HTML Help format allows user instructions to be presented in the same window as the application. This offers technical authors some extraordinary opportunities to provide intelligent, predictive, interactive help without the user having to request it. In this paper, we will explore one of the first such interactive help systems (for the Archivist e-mail archiving software), and see where the technology is moving.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2003). Articles>Documentation>Interaction Design>Help

11.
#10316

Building a Better ReadMe   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Surveys and focus groups show that most software buyers use ReadMe files. Users primarily look to ReadMe files for information on software bugs. They identify the following ways that software manufacturers can improve their ReadMe files: 1) keep them short, 2) include a table of contents, 3) use hypertext, and 4) eliminate the need for ReadMe files. Along with these four improvements, this article discusses other ways to create quality ReadMe files that meet concrete user needs.

Johnson, Mark A. Technical Communication Online (1997). Design>Documentation

13.
#20287

Building the Treasure House: Creating Knowledge Bases on the World-Wide Web   (PDF)

Web knowledge bases offer an excellent platform for delivering technical documentation and customer support information. They also represent an area of great opportunity for technical communicators to expand their skills, satisfy their customers, and create value for their employers or clients. This session explores the components of a web knowledge base and the tasks involved in planning and building one.

Massa, Jack A. STC Proceedings (1998). Articles>Documentation>Online>Web Design

14.
#35190

Calling Accessible Context-Sensitive Help with Unobtrusive DOM/JavaScript: A Help Authoring Guide

This Fast Track tutorial demonstrates two methods to call Context-Sensitive Help in a Web Form. We'll discover how Unobtrusive DOM/JavaScript achieves the desired result in calling Context-Sensitive help, and demonstrate how to keep the Structure, Presentation, and Behavior layers of a web page completely separate from one another ensuring good practice with current web standards and accessibility rules.

Palinkas, Frank M. helpware.net (2009). Articles>Web Design>Documentation>Help

15.
#28553

A Case of Exhaustive Documentation: Re-centering System-oriented Organizations Around User Need   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Braun Corporation's home-grown documentation processes served the organization well for its first 50 years as it grew from a local to a nationally-competitive producer of mobility and accessibility products. Now poised to become a global leader in its field, this corporation found its efforts hampered by ineffective and outdated documentation practices, which were hurting the company's competitive advantage. This article describes Braun Corporation's curious mixture of global reach and local isolation. By bringing in a technical communicator with expertise in user-centered design, Braun has begun reforming its formerly exhaustive documentation and communication practices. While technical communicators have incorporated a variety of strategies to develop user-centered and task-based documentation, less attention has been placed on changing the cultures of these organizations. The case presented here represents a shift from establishing documentation procedures to critically assessing and reforming existing procedures for the global workplace, describing the shift from ineffective and exhaustive processes to effective processes with defined goals and measurable outcomes. The article concludes with an inventory for determining whether other organizations are over-documenting processes and products, and offers suggestions for creating better documentation procedures.

Salvo, Michael J., Meredith W. Zoetewey and Kate Agena. Technical Communication Online (2007). Articles>Documentation>Management>User Centered Design

16.
#33424

The Changing Face of Technical Publications: Aberdeen Group's Topic-Based Authoring and Customization Strategy Guide

Often conflicting pressures to produce communications that better fit customer demands as well as stay within tightening constraints on budgets and schedules are leading many technical communications organizations to a topic-based approach to authoring. In fact, 58% of participants in Aberdeen Group's October 2008 DITA and the Technical Communicator’s Transformation study report that they currently follow author content in a topic-based manner, with a vast majority of those remaining planning to implement one in the future. A topic-based approach promotes greater content reuse and is seeing a considerable impact on the authoring efficiency of technical communications projects today. The benefits of topic-based authoring can be compelling, with findings from the The Technical Communicator’s Transformation study indicating that when pursued the right way, topic-based authoring can have a broad range of benefits, enabling an organization to meet authoring and localization cost targets as well as documentation quality expectations, among others. However, as the adoption of this approach spreads, the advantages seen by today's leading organizations will flatten out. This Sector Insight provides a guide for current adoption of topic-based authoring and those still considering it; outlining the changes that are expected to take place in as topic-based authoring goes mainstream.

Jackson, Chad and David Houlihan. Aberdeen Group (2008). Resources>Documentation>Information Design>Technical Writing

17.
#34638

Changing the Rules of the Game for the Benefit of the User

In this presentation, Joe Sokohl talks about gathering user research prior to designing and implementing your help deliverables.

Sokohl, Joe. I'd Rather Be Writing (2008). Articles>Documentation>Audience Analysis>User Centered Design

18.
#33156

Classic Computer Manuals from Apple and IBM

Apple's first user manual was largely the creation of Ronald Wayne, Apple's third founder, recruited from Atari by Steve Jobs for a 10 percent stake in the new company. Wayne not only wrote the entire 10-page booklet, he also drew the intricate cover logo depicting Isaac Newton beneath an apple tree.

Honan, Mathew. Wired (2008). Design>Documentation>Technical Illustration>History

19.
#29535

Communicating Design: Web Design Documentation

An overview of web design methods, including a survey of questions one should ask during the process.

Brown, Dan. SlideShare (2006). Presentations>Web Design>Documentation

20.
#30400

Communicating Rapidly Changing Information   (PDF)

When purchasing complex software products, users frequently receive large quantities of information; however, to use the product efficiently, they need a visually obvious starting point that helps them locate the specific information they need. With maintained With the quantity and diversity of information, customers need to be able to find the information they need without flipping through endless pages. In order to give the users a starting point in all of the printed and ASCII file information. we created a document entitled the Guide to products, users can use the features available with a new release most efficiently if they have an overview of the major changes to the product and to the information about the product. By using visual devices and creating an overview document. for each release, technical communicators can decrease their costs and increase users' productivity.

Bown, Jennifer and Connie M. Bibus. STC Proceedings (1993). Articles>Documentation>User Centered Design

21.
#29166

Comparative User-Focused Evaluation of User Guides: A Case Study   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

A comparative evaluation of two user guides,--the document traditionally used by a company and a model document designed on the basis of research results and recommendations,--was carried out using a number of complementary approaches focusing on the user. The quality and suitability of these documents for the target audience were assessed in terms of content, structure, presence of certain organizational devices (such as headings) and pictures included. The results revealed that the model document was more attractive, more efficient, and better adapted to users' needs, thanks to its modular organization (being structured according to "functions"), a large number of pictures, the presence of headings, and rationalization of the vocabulary used.

Ganier, Franck. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Documentation>Assessment>User Centered Design

22.
#27658

Constructing a One-Stop "Answer Station" Website for Software Users

The web allows us to easily provide updated documentation to our users, but why stop there? There is more to making users successful quickly than just providing documentation. By creating a complete 'Answer Station' that is accessible from the application or product, we can not only direct users to that updated documentation, but we can also provide information about technical support, consulting, training, sales, etc. This article discusses writing a proposal for an Answer Station, determining content, working with other departments to gather information, designing the site, making that design work with an existing corporate website, dealing with tool issues, and finally, going live.

Bleiel, Nicoletta A. and Beth A. Williams. WritersUA (2004). Articles>Documentation>Web Design>Help

23.
#28795

The Convergence of Web 2.0 with Help Documentation

This podcast talks about the convergence of web 2.0 with help documentation. It mentions examples of Web 2.0 sites, such as Flickr, Payscale, and Digg, and what help files need to incorporate these same Web 2.0 features.

Johnson, Tom H. Tech Writer Voices (2007). Design>Web Design>Documentation>Podcasts

24.
#37264

Converting to Structured Content

You’re told that you need to move your content to XML. You have loads and loads of unstructured content. It’s in FrameMaker, Word, other desktop publish applications, or even more fun: it’s on paper.

Maddox, Sarah. ffeathers (2010). Articles>Documentation>Information Design>XML

25.
#15104

Creating Documentation that Shows   (PDF)

Advocates using screen shots, text balloons, arrows, and scannable text to create picture-like documentation.

Eaton, Janet M.F. Intercom (2000). Design>Documentation>Technical Illustration>Screen Captures

 
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