A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Information Design

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Information design (also known as 'information architecture') is the study of the details of complex systems. Among these are websites, user interactions, databases, technical writing documentation, and human-computer interfaces.



Content Curation versus Content Creation

Content curation is much easier than content creation, because you don’t have to strain for original thought. Just note something interesting, maybe make a few remarks, and voila, you’re satisfying your hungry audience’s need for information.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Content Management>Content Strategy>Information Design


Content Curation: A Manifesto

A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online. I think that professional writers and technical writers should consider a move towards this role. We already search for and find the best content, sift through loads of content, discard poor content, and publish the most worthy content whenever a software release goes out. This description also sounds like something a content strategist would do as part of their analysis of the content.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2009). Articles>Content Management>Information Design>Technical Writing


Content is King

Not all content is created equal. In fact, the real issue isn't the primacy of content, since no user in their right mind will come to stare at a blank screen labeled Me.com; the real issue is what type of content you're offering.

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. Geoff-Hart.com (2001). Design>Web Design>Information Design


A Content Management Project Presents Unique Challenges

At a basic level, implementing a content management system (CMS) is like deploying any other large software package. Fundamental project management principles must be followed, along with best practice technical guidelines. Beyond this, however, a CMS project presents a number of unique challenges. These must be recognised and addressed for the project to be successful.

Robertson, James. Step Two (2003). Design>Content Management>Information Design>Content Strategy


Content Organization   (PDF)

After ensuring that content is useful, well-written, and in a format that is suitable for the Web, it is important to ensure that the information is clearly organized. In some cases, the content on a site can be organized in multiple ways to accommodate multiple audiences. Organizing content includes putting critical information near the top of the site, grouping related elements, and ensuring that all necessary information is available without slowing the user with unneeded information. Content should be formatted to facilitate scanning, and to enable quick understanding.

Usability.gov (2006). Design>Information Design>Web Design>Writing


Content Reuse the Easy Way

For years you've been hearing about how structured authoring and XML-based workflows can help technical authors reuse content more efficiently. By converting all of your topics to an XML standard, investing in a CMS, and building custom DTDs and XSLT translations, you can avoid having to maintain duplicate content. The downside? Months of time invested in research, evaluation, and conversion only to be followed by a steep learning curve as your team adjusts to a new workflow.

Haiss, Craig. HelpScribe (2010). Articles>Content Management>Information Design>XML


Content Syndication with RSS   (PDF)

In this chapter we examine the RSS 0.91, 0.92, and 2.0 specifications in detail. We also show how to create your own feeds and use those created by others.

Hammersley, Ben. O'Reilly and Associates (2003). Design>Information Design>XML>RSS


Content, Structure, and Relevance: The Ploy's the Thing

Attracting and retaining an audience on the Web requires the skills of a playwright, and like a good playwright, you have to be able to skillfully combine three inseparable elements: Content, structure, and relevance. Content is one of the hot buzzwords of the new millennium. Without content, your site can be aptly described by MacBeth's despairing lament: 'A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.' (Substitute 'Flash and Shockwave' for 'sound and fury' and you've got the picture.) Despair describes the second of these three components, because if you don't create a site structure that helps people find all that fine content you've created, they'll give up and go elsewhere--or go mad with the effort of searching, with results every bit as tragic for your job prospects as 'the Scottish play' is reputed to be for actors. And the part about 'signifying nothing'? If the content that visitors do eventually find isn't relevant to their needs, they're not going to come back any more than Lady MacBeth will.

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. TECHWR-L (2001). Design>Information Design


Context-Dependent Information Filtering

People tend to use different terms to describe a similar concept. Due to the unique backgrounds, training and experiences of different people, it is impractical to force them to use the same set of terms for information retrieval. This paper presents an approach to allow different user groups to access and view information from heterogenous systems by using their own preferred vocabularies. In the meantime, the retrieval concept depends on the task context. A task ontology is used to reflect users' common perception of problem solving processes. The discovered concepts then uniquely reflects the contextual need of distinct user groups.

Lee, Maria R. ISRDP in Digital Libraries (1997). Articles>Information Design


Contextual Inquiry: Listening and Questioning to Improve Information Design   (PDF)

Contextual Inquiry is a field research technique that focuses on interviewing users in their own context as they do actual work. As a basis for effective design, Contextual Inquiry can contribute to the requirements and structure of systems and information. This half-day workshop presents a practical introduction to Contextual Inquiry as a step in designing information that supports and extends users' work.

Beabes, Minette A., Mary E. Raven, and Karen Holtzblatt. STC Proceedings (1993). Articles>Information Design>Methods>Contextual Inquiry


Contingency Design: Maximizing Online Profitability By Helping People When Things Go Wrong

Contingency design is design for when things go wrong. It's the error messaging, graphic design, instructive text, information architecture, backend system, and customer service that helps visitors get back on track after a problem occurs.

37Signals (2007). Articles>Information Design>User Centered Design


The Contribution of Hypermedia Link Authoring   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Linking, when properly executed, enhances the value of content by providing a consistent perspective and organizational scheme that enriches the user's experience. Link authoring, like content authoring, is a creative process of making connections between disparate yet related information. Effective link authoring requires intellect, creativity, and domain knowledge to define the relationships among concepts that can support a particular pedagogical objective. The contribution of hypermedia link authoring is often poorly understood and unrecognized by traditional academic and publishing communities. Publishers of commercial and academic hypermedia typically neither formally recognize link authoring as something that should be protected by copyright, nor do they extend to those involved in link authoring the same degree of credit or remuneration given conventional content authors or illustrators.

Bergeron, Bryan P. and Michael T. Bailin. Technical Communication Online (1997). Design>Information Design>Hypertext>Multimedia


Control Charts, Quality Assurance, and Information Development   (PDF)

The purpose of this paper is to explore a method that allows information developers to measure the quality assurance being invested in the products they create. A successful project achieves a balance between the time it takes to produce information, the associated cost, and the quality of the end product.

Murphy, Stephen W. STC Proceedings (1993). Articles>Information Design>Assessment


Controlling Whitespace, Part 1

XML considers four characters to be whitespace: the carriage return, the linefeed, the tab, and the spacebar space. Microsoft operating systems put both a carriage return and a linefeed at the end of each line of a text file, and people usually refer to the combination as the "carriage return". XSLT stylesheet developers often get frustrated over the whitespace that shows up in their result documents -- sometimes there's more than they wanted, sometimes there's less, and sometimes it's in the wrong place. Over the next few columns, we'll discuss how XML and XSLT treat whitespace to gain a better understanding of what can happen, and we'll look at some techniques for controlling how an XSLT processor adds whitespace to the result document.

DuCharme, Bob. XML.com (2001). Articles>Information Design>XML>XSL


Review: Convergence and Emergence: 2008 IA Summit

The 2008 IA Summit was held April 10–14, at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami, Florida, shown in Figure 1. It had the highest attendance in the conference’s nine-year history: Over 600 people signed up for the conference run by ASIS&T (American Society for Information Science and Technology). All the signs are that information architecture (IA) is a community and a practice that is growing, and that its sister disciplines—interaction design (IxD) and experience design—are well-represented at the conference—not just in terms of attendees, but also speakers.

Kelway, James. UXmatters (2008). Articles>Reviews>Information Design>Interaction Design


The Convergence of Technical Communication and Information Architecture: Managing Single-Source Objects for Contemporary Media   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Single sourcing, XML, and other forms of multimedia have changed technical communicators' work processes and on-the-job duties. Beyond the requirements for traditional skills in writing, editing, and designing, technical communicators must now play enhanced roles within professional environments including organizing, creating, and managing information. To help simplify the complex tasks of creating multimedia documents, in this article we examine the impact that new technologies have had on the technical communication profession. Referring to a wide variety of sources about the fundamental changes to our profession, we synthesize information regarding managing multimedia documents. Although in this article we focus on object management, with an emphasis on the tasks, skills, and tools required of authors of such documents, in future articles we will address object creation and object presentation.

Mott, Richard K. and Julie Dyke Ford. Technical Communication Online (2007). Articles>Information Design>Single Sourcing


Convert XML to JSON in PHP

With the growing popularity of Web 2.0, a new data interchange format called JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) is emerging as a useful way to represent data in the business logic running on browsers. Learn how PHP-based server programs can convert XML-formatted enterprise application data into JSON format before sending it to browser applications.

Nathan, Senthil, Edward J Pring and John Morar. IBM (2007). Design>Web Design>Information Design>Ajax


Converting a Controlled Vocabulary Into an Ontology: The Case of GEM   (peer-reviewed)

The prevalance of digital information raised issues regarding the suitability of conventional library tools for organizing information. The multi-dimensionality of digital resources requires a more versatile and flexible representation to accommodate intelligent information representation and retrieval. Ontologies are used as a solution to such issues in many application domains, mainly due to their ability explicitly to specify the semantics and relations and to express them in a computer understandable language. Conventional knowledge organization tools such as classifications and thesauri resemble ontologies in a way that they define concepts and relationships in a systematic manner, but they are less expressive than ontologies when it comes to machine language. This paper used the controlled vocabulary at the Gateway to Educational Materials (GEM) as an example to address the issues in representing digital resources. The theoretical and methodological framework in this paper serves as the rationale and guideline for converting the GEM controlled vocabulary into an ontology. Compared to the original semantic model of GEM controlled vocabulary, the major difference between the two models lies in the values added through deeper semantics in describing digital objects, both conceptually and relationally.

Qin, Jian and Stephen Paling. Information Research (2001). Articles>Information Design>Metadata>Controlled Vocabulary


Converting Legacy Documents to Hypertext

When I first came to Boeing, my workgroup delivered documents (stored either in Microsoft Word or XyWrite) in hardcopy format. As more modern document delivery options were made available to us, I convinced the customers, development staff and the management to adopt these new technologies to make documentation maintenance and delivery easier. I also converted over 1000 pages of documentation (such as language reference manuals, quick reference guides, installation guides and user guides) from strict text formatting to hypertext. This chapter will share what I learned with you. Here are some guidelines I recommend you follow when you begin to convert your paper-based documents to hypertext. Each guideline will be expounded later in this chapter.

EServer (2001). Design>Information Design>Hypertext>Case Studies


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


Converting to XML: Is it Always the Answer?

Although managing costs is important anytime, it is especially important in today's economic reality where budgets are shrinking drastically. Getting your money's worth as well as what you need to support your data should be a core factor of any data project. The two biggest cost factors are the type of conversion work you need done and how much of it you'll need. This article focuses on how your goals for your project relate to the output format you choose, and how that format impacts costs. While some outputs, like XML, provide higher capabilities, they also cost more to create.

Gross, Mark. Data Conversion Laboratory (2009). Articles>Content Management>Information Design>XML


Converting to XML: Some Point-Form Pros and Cons

I have recently converted some user documents from MS Word to XML for a medical device company with the intent that they would be looking at authoring their future end-user documentation (printed, embedded, and online) in XML. I want to share with you some of the triumphs and challenges we had met along the way.

Stuhlemmer, Barbara. ClearComm Information Design (2007). Articles>Information Design>XML>Case Studies


Converting Word Documents with Embedded Files   (PDF)

How can I convert Word documents to PDF and ensure their embedded Excel documents also get converted?

Boulay, J.R. PDFzone (2004). Design>Information Design>Software>Adobe Acrobat


Corporate Blogs: Front Page Structure

Showing summaries of many articles is more likely to draw in users than providing full articles, which can quickly exhaust reader interest.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2010). Articles>Blogging>Business Communication>Information Design



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