Guest Blog Post by the Humanist Nerd

Dear Readers, please visit the Gather Content blog, where I have just published a guest post: Your Software Needs a Content Strategy Too!

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We Are Family

Over here in Europe, we get a fair number of American TV series, but not all of them. Recently, a friend passed me a complete set of all the existing episodes of Firefly which I’ve been enjoying immensely. I’d not heard of it before, but I understand that it has become something of a cult series in the U.S. and I understand why.

It has something in common with a series that has had vastly greater success, in the U.S. and abroad: NCIS.

I’m not sure why one series failed and the other succeeded, but what ties them both together, and makes them both so appealing, is the sense of dysfunctional but united family.

Continue reading “We Are Family”

A Cognitive Design for User Assistance – Comprehensive Links

Update, 17 September 2015: Adobe has a new platform for its recorded webinars. Links to the recordings are now updated and will work correctly.

It is important to follow the Instructions for viewing them, which is also updated.

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I’ve had a number of emails, tweets, and other requests for information on how to get slides or recordings of the webinar series I just finished for Adobe.

Thanks are in order

First off, I need to thank all of you who attended, asked questions, passed me feedback and food for thought.

Thanks also to Adobe for giving me the space and the freedom to present these ideas, and promote the research we are starting to do in The Transformation Society. I’ll be blogging about that more in the near future.

Some Practical Information

Slides are posted as pdf files to Slideshare. You are welcome to use, but not modify, these slide decks, with attribution.

Recordings of the webinars are on the Adobe site – you need to have an adobe.com account to get to them. This will not hurt, I promise 😉 You can get the account for free, and there’s no obligation attached to it.

 Instructions for viewing webinar recordings 

When you click the links to the webinar recordings, you’ll arrive at the webinar description page. Click the “register” button, then fill out the form. You’ll be sent a link that will activate watching. The user experience is less than stellar, but don’t worry about it – just plod through, you’ll end up at the recording, just as we promised 😉

The Links

Session 1: Users Become Learners

Session 2: Empowering User/Learners Through Cognitive Development

Session 3: Integrated Learning: Building Customer Loyalty

 I’ve tested the links, and as of this writing, they all work as advertised.

Enjoy!

 

The Humanist Nerd Reviews Adobe TC Suite 4

Adobe recently released Technical Communication Suite 4 (TCS4), the latest version of their integrated collection of technical communications tools.

Context

I am a long-time FrameMaker and RoboHelp user – I used RoboHelp when it was still an independent company called eHelp, and have seen it evolve through several acquisitions, several versions, often retaining some of its most frustrating problems, even after transitioning from eHelp to Macromedia to Adobe.

I stopped using these tools, not because I didn’t like them any more, but because their model no longer conformed to what I needed: structured, modular XML authoring with multiple publishing channels.

This also means that I am no longer the expert I once was on these products, and have have tested some of what is available in TCS4, without (yet) drilling down into its depths. Continue reading “The Humanist Nerd Reviews Adobe TC Suite 4”

Find Your User’s Voice

I’m working on an interesting problem these days. I have a client who is about to release a new software product. I can’t tell you what it does, for obvious reasons, but I can tell you that it does some neat things. Perhaps too many.

It provides users with all kinds of useful information. Some of it is useful for a group of users – call them Group A. Some of it is useful for another Group B.  They aren’t interested in the same things, and for some information,  Group B wants to know about it, but Group A not only isn’t interested, they’re not authorized to see it.

Access to sensitive information can obviously be solved with user profiles, but it’s a challenge to sell the same software to two different audiences. To facilitate the task, we’ve decided to create two different interfaces, one for each of the groups. When a user logs into the software the interface s/he sees is dependent on a user profile associated with the login. The other interface is not available.

That was the easy part. Next, we have to design the interfaces. And each interface has to communicate with its user group in language that makes them comfortable, and, above all, inspires confidence in the software.

It’s early days, but here are a few guidelines I’m working on that you might also find useful:

  • The design (look and feel, user interaction model) of the two interfaces needs to be sufficiently similar that should someone need to have access to both, they don’t need to relearn everything to use it.
  • At the same time, the same elements of the interface need to be fine tuned to appeal to very different user populations – for example, one might be technical, or engineering oriented, the other might be business oriented. One might be implicated in operations, the other might be financial, etc.
  • The language, labels, messages used in each interface need to be 100% adapted to the user group’s profile.
  • When writing the messages and content delivered by the software, we need to think about subtext as well as overt meaning. When two people have a conversation, there is enormous subtext based on power relationships, expectations, tone of voice, etc. When software provides information to a user, there is an implied notion that one or the other is the expert. How the software communicates with the user needs to be aligned with whether the software or the user is expected to be the expert, and the tone of the communication needs to be equally adjusted.
  • The user guidance, also needs to respect the target audience. This is harder the it might seem. Some of the user guidance is common to both interfaces – and needs to maintain that level of confidence for both, despite the fact that the two groups tend to favor very different communication styles.

My takeaway from this exercise so far: when we talk about content strategy for software, we really need to take a holistic approach, and realize that content and style need to be coherent, and in resonance with the nature of the information itself, and the user who must interact with it. Interactivity, in this sense, needs to take certain aspects of human communication into account if it is to succeed at convincing users and gaining their trust.

Where Would You Take This Idea?

I invite your comments, thoughts or reflections.