We were delighted to welcome representatives from the following nations at the recent highly successful UA Europe 2011 conference in Brighton, UK:
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and USA.
Read what two attendees of UA Europe 2011 had to say about the conference:
- Brighton Rocks: UA Europe 2011 by Ultan Ó Broin of Oracle
- UA Europe 2011 conference review by Ellis Pratt of Cherryleaf
Cultural opening to UA Europe 2011
Leah also presented a valuable session on
Help Procedures That Work.
UA Europe 2011 Speaker Index
Based in Denmark, Thomas is currently Localization Manager at GN Otometrics. He has more than 20 years of experience as a consultant on assignments relating to user assistance and single sourcing. His expertise covers a wide-ranging portfolio of tools, including products from Corel, Adobe, Madcap Software, Quadralay, and others. He is highly experienced in dealing with the "loose ends" that are needed to comply to a successful production environment, where deadlines have to be met and quality has to be maintained. Thomas has an M.Sc in Science and Human Physiology, but has devoted his working career to help people with their "computer problems".
Matthew has 25 years of experience as a user assistance professional in the software industry. Much of this time was spent managing a team of writers and trainers at a UK-based consultancy company, before enjoying a period in the US as Director of the WinWriters (now WritersUA) Conference.
Matthew has been a highly rated and respected speaker at WritersUA events throughout the world since 1997, and has covered a diverse range of topics from context-sensitive Help to the Spice Girls! He now runs Matthew Ellison Consulting, an independent UK-based training and consulting company that specializes in user assistance design and technology.
Matthew holds a B.Sc. in Electronic Engineering and a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education from Bristol University in the UK. Last year he was the winner of the prestigious Horace Hockley award that is presented annually by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC). Matthew is currently a visiting lecturer on the MA Technical Communication course at Portsmouth University, and is also a certified instructor for RoboHelp, Flare, Captivate, and Help & Manual.
Marie-Louise Flacke (EUROCONTROL)
Marie-Louise Flacke has over 15 years' experience in international documentation, localisation and usability testing. Maitre de Conferences associée at the Université de Haute-Bretagne (UHB) (2007-2009), she has trained multilingual students in technical communication as part of the university's multimedia Masters program. UHB is ranked 1st ex aequo as European Master in Translation program. She also teaches technical writing at the University of Brest (UBO) and the University of Angers (UCO).
A graduate of the Technical Writing Program at the American University of Paris (2003), Marie-Louise has worked for a wide range of organisations in the IT, telecoms, network security, aeronautics and medical industries. In 2003 and 2006, she was appointed Judge to the STC Trans-European Technical Communications Competition.
Her achievements have been featured in articles in the IEEE Technical Communication Journal, inTekom publications, HEPS 2008 (Healthcare System, Ergonomics and Patient Safety) proceedings, and DITA Europe 2010 proceedings among others.
From 2003 to 2006, she was Vice President of INTECOM, the international council of technical communication societies.
Passionate about usability, minimalism and DITA, Marie-Louise is currently involved in a major re-structuring project aimed at downsizing the documentation volume. Further, collaborating with Ci3M, she is designing training modules for their technical writing distance learning program.
Sonia Fuga (Northgate Public Services)
Sonia has over ten years' experience as a technical communicator in the software industry, both at Northgate and previously at Oracle. The size and scope of the applications she has documented mean she is familiar with several Help authoring tools, internationalisation issues, and documentation project management.
Currently, Sonia is the Documentation Manager of the Northgate Public Services Documentation Group and manages a team of authors located across the UK who are responsible for delivering context-sensitive Help, user guides and other supporting documentation for many Northgate Public Services applications.
Dave Gash (HyperTrain dot Com)
Dave Gash is the owner of HyperTrain dot Com, a Southern California firm specialising in training and consulting for hypertext developers. A veteran software professional with over thirty years of development, documentation, and training experience, Dave holds degrees in Business and Computer Science, and is well known in the technical publications community as an interesting and engaging technical instructor. Dave is a popular speaker at User Assistance seminars and conferences in the US and around the world.
Peter Grainge (Advanced Business Solutions)
Peter Grainge leads the development of the user assistance for the public sector products at Advanced Business Solutions in Cobham, UK. Advanced Business Solutions is the 5th largest UK based software supplier to the UK market and the 16th largest international provider to the UK market. Peter himself moved into technical communication after 30 years of working in the banking industry. Peter's special expertise in RoboHelp and associated user assistance technologies is recognised by his status as an Adobe Community Professional, and he has his own web site offering guidance and resources on a range of authoring issues.
Leah Guren is the owner/operator of Cow TC. She has been active in the field of technical communication since 1980 as a writer, manager, Help author, and consultant. She now devotes her time to consulting and teaching courses and seminars in technical communication, primarily in Israel and Europe. Her clients include some of the top hi-tech companies internationally, including Intel, IBM, and Microsoft. Her usability work focuses heavily on cultural and linguistic issues, including her research on BDBL (bidirectional bilingual) web site content. Leah is an internationally-recognized speaker in the field of technical communication and is currently serving on the board of directors of STC (Society for Technical Communication).
Tina Hoffman (Planit Group)
A technical communicator with over 15 years' experience, Tina enjoys quizzing subject matter experts and translating their answers into something the user understands. With a background in linguistics and art history, Tina is a supporter of the William Morris approach to communication and believes you should have nothing in your documentation that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. A firm believer that most documentation contains all the information the user needs but cannot find, Tina spends a lot of time cleaning up, clearing out and cutting down documentation.
As Documentation and Localisation Specialist at the Planit Group one of the worlds largest suppliers of CAD/CAM solutions Tina is responsible for documentation and localisation for a number of products. Tina is also a senior member of the Society for Technical Communication (STC ) and served on the UK/Ireland board for a number of years.
Nolwenn Kerzreho (Université Rennes 2 Haute Bretagne)
Nolwenn Kerzreho is a contract Technical Communicator at Technicolor IPTV R&D (Thales Services), where she leads the DITA adoption effort as a trainer and information architect. Her duties extend to implementing standards, managing documentation processes and administrating the information management systems.
In charge of the Technical Writing program (CFTTR) at the Université Rennes 2 Haute Bretagne a labelled program from the network of European Master's in Translation, Nolwenn has special interests in user-oriented documentation, readability (including testing and eye-tracking), language industry standards and XML-based authoring systems.
Ultan Ó Broin (Oracle)
Ultan Ó Broin is a director of Oracle Applications User Experience, responsible for user assistance (messages and Help) guidelines, patterns and standards deliverables for enterprise application designers and developers. With 20 years of experience in user assistance development and localization since 2002 he has rolled out Arbortext authoring environment training (DocBook and DITA specializations) to Oracles writing teams on three continents. With Oracle since 1996, he has an MA, MBA, and MSc in Information Systems, has published widely on the using XML for global content development and delivery, and is technical editor of a book on XML internationalisation and localisation.
Ellis Pratt (Cherryleaf)
Ellis is Sales and Marketing Director at Cherryleaf, a technical writing training, recruitment and consultancy company. He has over fifteen years experience working in the field of documentation, having worked for TMS, Digitext and Cherryleaf. His regular articles on technical communication have resulted him in being ranked by MindTouch as the most the influential blogger on technical communication in Europe. Ellis is a regular speaker at conferences, and he brings humour, real life stories and practical applications to his keynote talks and seminars. He is the author of Tech Writing 2.0 The application of Web 2.0 technologies to technical documentation, So you want to become a technical author, and Network to Get Work. Ellis has a BA in Business Studies and is an Associate of the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Joe Welinske is the president of WritersUA, formerly known as WinWriters. WritersUA is a company devoted to providing training and information for user assistance professionals. The WritersUA/WinWriters Conference draws hundreds of attendees each year from around the world to share the latest in user assistance design and implementation. The free content on the WritersUA web site attracts over 20,000 visitors each month. Joe has been involved with software documentation development since 1984.
Together with Scott Boggan and David Farkas, Joe authored two editions of the popular and pioneering book Developing Online Help for Windows. He has also taught online Help courses at the University of Washington and UC Santa Cruz. Joe received a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1981, and a M.S. in Adult Instructional Management from Loyola University in 1987.
Cerys Willoughby (IBM)
Cerys Willoughby is an Information Architect for a family of middleware products at IBM's software laboratory in Hursley, UK. Before working as an information architect, Cerys has worked as both information developer and usability practitioner with IBM, and has a passion for the usability of software and user documentation. Cerys also represents the UK as a member of an ISO working group on software and systems documentation, and is editor for two International Standards, one on the reviewing and testing of user documentation, and one currently under development on the development of user documentation in an agile environment.
UA Europe 2011 Session Index
- Cultural Dimensions of Software Help Usage
- Better, Faster, Cheaper! The Power of Controlled Language in UA
- Let's Look in the Mirror and See What We See
- A Style Guide for DITA Authoring
- Seven Secrets of Successful Software Demos
- Single Sourcing with MadCap Flare
- Current User Assistance Trends and Technologies
(Panel of leading panel of leading vendors of user assistance technologies and services)
- Case Study: Migrating to Adobe AIR Help
- Update on DITA and WordPress Solution for Flexible User Assistance
- Why Bother with Notes and Warnings?
- Help Procedures That Work
- You Win! Applying Game Theory to Software User Assistance
- Progressive Disclosure of Information: Making Products Easier to Use
- Going Japanese A Bi-cultural Approach to User Assistance and eLearning
- Technical Guidance on Creating User-friendly Warnings using DITA 1.2
- Beyond Errors: Messages for the Complete Enterprise Applications User Experience
(Ultan Ó Broin)
- An Introduction to Video Editing
- Techniques for Embedded User Assistance
UA Europe 2011 Session Descriptions
Cultural Dimensions of Software Help Usage
While nobody doubts that computer literacy, experience and education play an important role in user behaviour, the impact of age, gender and culture is less obvious. Cow TC conducted a study to find out which factors influence the users motivation to use Help systems and to learn how Help systems can be adjusted to better suit its target audience, and got some surprising results! A follow-up study explored the impact of different cultures on Help usage, and looked at the effect of technology as the great equalizer. This session provides empirical data, including clips of usability tests, anecdotal evidence, and recommended best practices.
- About about the invisibility of gender
- About the calcification of user ignorance, and much more on inattentional blindness
- To look at your Help systems through the eyes of specific cultures
- To avoid the most common problems for global acceptance
- To provide support for mixed audiences
Better, Faster, Cheaper! The Power of Controlled Language in UA
Controlled languages use basic writing rules and tightly-controlled vocabularies to make sentences simpler and more consistent. Already widely used in aerospace, defense, and other precision-critical industries, controlled language is finding its way into other technical arenas such as medicine, finance, and of course user assistance. This session introduces you to controlled language and its many benefits, explains how to approach the adoption of controlled language in your UA documents, and looks at some available controlled language software and services. You'll find that controlled language is a logical, accessible technology that can truly make your Help better, faster, and cheaper!
- Background and concepts of controlled language
- Benefits of using a controlled language
- How dictionaries can be adapted and developed
- What products and services are available for controlled language
Let's Look in the Mirror and See What We See
For the past two years, Joe Welinske has opened his WritersUA conference with a session in which attendees answer questions about themselves and about their work using wireless keypads. In this presentation, Joe discusses the outcomes of these live surveys, and also explores the results of many other surveys of technical communicators that his organisation has conducted over the past ten years and more. He'll be drawing conclusions about the key characteristics and personality traits of the User Assistance community, and also speculating on how these may need to change in response to the rapidly evolving nature of our roles as content curators, social networkers, and developers of multimedia content.
A Style Guide for DITA Authoring
As more companies implement DITA to streamline the development of documentation and user assistance, best practices for DITA authoring are being established. While the OASIS DITA standard provides rules for the use of elements and attributes, it does not provide clear guidelines for how to practically apply the mark-up, and how to create consistency so that DITA documents can be more readily interchanged. In traditional authoring, a style guide would provide real-world examples and clear recommendations. However, existing style guides are written for style-based authoring, and not for semantic authoring. Tony Self has analysed the way in which DITA has been used, and has developed a DITA Style Guide to fill the gap between the DITA standard and traditional style manuals.
- How structured authoring requires a different set of style rules to style-based authoring
- How consistent mark-up can enable efficiency of authoring and interchange of documents
- How practical examples of element selection can simplify DITA adoption
- How standard approaches can create simple solutions to mark-up dilemmas
- About the planned evolution of the DITA Style Guide into a community resource
Seven Secrets of Successful Software Demos
Video- or Flash-based demonstrations and simulations are an increasingly popular and important part of the User Assistance mix that today's software users are demanding. Based on ten years of experience of creating these demonstrations with tools such as Adobe Captivate, TechSmith Camtasia, and MadCap Mimic, Matthew shares some of his favourite techniques for making these demonstrations engaging, memorable, and easy to create and maintain.
- The relative strengths and weaknesses of the major tools, and why you might need to consider owning more than one
- How to select an appropriate size for the demonstration, and how to make it resizable
- The key differences between screen-based capture and full-motion recording
- The importance of audio, and how you should record it
- The modality principle for text and speech
- When and how to use panning and zooming
- How best to highlight areas of the screen
- How to tweak and edit demonstrations
Single Sourcing with MadCap Flare
This case study describes the experiences and lessons learned last year in the process of migrating 10 years-worth of legacy FrameMaker content to MadCap Flare. The aim was, and is, to re-use a vastly larger amount of data in all types of content combinations for a wide range of delivery types and target languages. The presentation explains how a very strict structure of file- and project-dependencies and single-source elements had to be designed and adhered to.
Current User Assistance Trends and Technologies
Ankur Jain (Technical Communication Suite Product Manager, Adobe)
Agija Kemmann (Operations Manager, ADAPT Localization)
Mike Hamilton (VP, Product Management, MadCap Software)
Julian Murfitt (Managing Director, Mekon)
Sebastian Goettel (Director of Sales, SCHEMA)
Chaired by Leah Guren
This lively panel session will explore a range of key technology trends and challenges that are facing today's user assistance professionals. There will be an opportunity to put questions to the panel from the audience.
Case Study: Migrating to Adobe AIR Help
Last year, Advanced Business Solutions gave one of its products a complete facelift and it was a requirement that the online help had a modern look and feel. This particular product is installed locally and a CHM did not meet the requirement. It was decided the time was right to look at AIR Help for that reason alone, but the ability for users to collaborate by adding feedback/comments that would survive help updates was also a key factor. The challenge was creating one output that could be installed at any customer site in a way that allowed their employees to share comments that could not be seen by other customers. Each customer needed to be able to keep their own comments "in-house". Peter will explain how this issue was addressed, and how his team has exploited many of the features in RoboHelp 8.
- What drove the need to consider Adobe AIR Help
- About the unique features of Adobe AIR Help that made it a suitable choice for this requirement
- How the help was produced using RoboHelp 8
- How site-specific requirements were addressed
- How the help was kept context-sensitive
- About the new features in RoboHelp 9 resulting from the learnings
Update on DITA and WordPress Solution for Flexible User Assistance
In 2008 Northgate presented a case study which outlined how they were using DITA, WordPress and Web 2.0 features to streamline the documentation process, simplify the review process and deliver interactive context sensitive Help for one of their larger applications. Two outstanding features of the new Help included Google-like search results (produced by referencing DITA elements within the topics) and the ability for users to provide feedback and obtain notifications of content updates via RSS feeds.
This session follows Northgate on their journey from the original case study through to the present day, stopping to look at the reasons for introducing new functionality, changing existing functionality, and redefining their original road map.
- A recap of where the project was in 2008
- About the challenges encountered and overcome since
- How the vision compared to reality
- What the future plans are for the project
Why Bother with Notes and Warnings?
With regard to safety, the tendency is to add dozens of warning signs and boxed-ring warnings in procedures. But how effective are these warnings actually? This session analyses the most recent research findings on failures to increase safety by using warnings. In particular, since "People can ignore or totally miss a boxed warning sign unless they are actively looking for a boxed warning sign", we might ask ourselves Why Technical Communicators use so many warnings and notes. The main reason for spreading warnings and notes is to provide legal protection to the manufacturers. Are Technical Communicators aiming at protecting the manufacturer from customers law suit or helping the user safely perform a task?
- How to warn without warnings
- How to place Notes in the right location
- How to deal with the legal department …
- … and still produce a cost-effective documentation!
Help Procedures That Work
Procedures (step-by-step instructions) are often the most important part of a good Help system. Yet many Help authors make the mistake of focusing on describing interface rather than writing tasks, or else writing overly-simplistic procedures that don't meet the needs (or expectations) of users.
Learning to write good procedures requires analysing the project and making tough decisions. And writing those procedures as Help requires even more careful thought and planning.
This session covers best practices for writing procedures in online Help, from the basics of task analysis to the nuances of dynamic layering and links.
- The relationship between feature-based and task-based topics
- Ways to determine which key tasks need to be documented in the Help system
- The best practices for procedures, from title to results
- Strategies for supporting the needs of different user groups
- How to do simple usability testing of these procedures
You Win! Applying Game Theory to Software User Assistance
Its claimed that games are a powerful way of affecting user behaviour, so can we apply game theory to the provision of User Assistance and increase its uptake? In this presentation, we'll look at games such as Frequent Flyer Programmes, Google AdWords, as well as more recognisable games software. We'll look at what makes some successful and others failures. We'll also look at how organisations are today applying game techniques to Web sites, Help files and support communities, in order to drive a positive response, participation and engagement from their users.
Progressive Disclosure of Information: Making Products Easier to Use
The software that we work on at IBM is very complex, and we know our users struggle, but expecting them to read masses of documentation before they use it is not a realistic solution. We took one of our complex products and ran a pilot to improve the embedded assistance in a vital area of the interface. We used the concept of progressive disclosure in order to provide customers with the information they needed at the point they needed it, without overwhelming them. We had to adopt new ways of working with our development teams to both generate the information to include and develop the technology to allow us to do so. As well as improving the usability significantly, we found the writers were able to get involved earlier, influence the design of the software, and also gain more satisfaction from their writing than traditional methods.
- What progressive disclosure is, and how it helps users that have a variety of different experience levels
- A range of techniques for implementing progressive disclosure 2
- Tips for working with development teams
- How more involvement in the UI can be of benefit to technical communicators
Going Japanese A Bi-cultural Approach to User Assistance and eLearning
The session presents a real-life case study of how the documentation team of a small UK-based software house is working with a Japanese client to produce User Assistance and eLearning solution for a customised software product. It describes a journey of discovery, as we learned how to create User Assistance for an audience with very different views to our own. Working with a client who has the highest expectations of help and an unrivalled attention to detail and quality proved both challenging and highly rewarding for the UK team. The session gives an overview of the more technical localisation and translation aspects of the project, as well as highlighting the cultural aspects and how to deal with having two project management teams. Starting from scratch allowed us to consider culture, learning, translation and technical challenges as part of the project instead of seeing localisation as a "bolt on" to the original project.
- How to create User Assistance with localisation in mind
- How to manage different cultural expectations of help, learning and training
- About our experience of project managing two teams (UK and Japan)
Technical Guidance on Creating User-friendly Warnings using DITA 1.2
Although warnings may not necessarily be the best way to provide safe procedures to our users, technical communicators may have no other choice than to use them. This presentation provides guidance to create user-friendly warnings.
Standards supply guidance on use, structure, placement, and information severity, and graphics. Technical Communicators use their own industry standards (ex. ISO/CEI 26514 for software documentation …) and should benefit from other industry standards, such as the EU Machine Directive now implemented in DITA 1.2.
What's available with DITA …
With DITA 1.1, Technical Communicators use the element "Note" for all kinds of information needing a differentiation, such as notes, tips and safety precautions. The new information element "Hazard statement" in DITA 1.2 separates minor and significant information, but other new ("Required conditions") or old ("Steps") information elements may be of interest.
How to maximise readability?
Studies have shown the readers' eye won't stop on boxed or clustered warnings, so a few simple style recommendations can greatly improve consistency, readability, and ultimately the readers' safety.
How to maximise reuse?
Finally, Technical Communicators can leverage effective reuse mechanisms to manage legal and safety warnings with DITA.
- How to make the most of industry standards
- How to apply ISO standard graphics
- How to write DITA 1.1- and DITA 1.2-compliant warnings
- How to maximise warning readability
- How to maximise reuse of warnings
Beyond Errors: Messages for the Complete Enterprise Applications User Experience
This study reveals insights into how messages are best designed for users of enterprise applications. Enterprise applications use messages to communicate with users taking into account the context of the task flow, user profile, and the working environment of dealing with high value data under pressure. Messages of different types are required: Confirmations, errors, information, processing and warning types, each with unique visual properties and specific use cases for where and when they are used on the page. Enterprise application messages go far beyond the oft-quoted heuristic of writing them in plain language. They must be integrated with the overall user experience, operating environment, and plug into existing help desk policies. The presentation uses colourful examples of message usage in Oracle and leverages Oracle own usability findings, designs as well as heuristics from other usability studies and sources.
- About the types of messages that can be used in enterprise applications (confirmations, errors, information, processing, and warning)
- When each type is used to smooth the flow of application use and improve usability
- What enterprise application users want from these types of messages, and how it is different from what we often read about error messages and how they are used on web sites
- When messages are best presented either in a dialogue box or directly on the page
An Introduction to Video Editing
More and more organisations are using videos to present user assistance content. Video offers an engaging medium that is attractive to today's customers. It is also an excellent way to present information that is difficult to express in words.
The best videos are ones that combine a constantly changing series of scenes using moving images, static images, people, music, narration and text overlays. Any number of tools can provide the means to edit a video. This session demonstrates the basics of video editing with multiple media.
- The basic elements of a good video editing suite
- How the timeline works and how to make it work for you
- Techniques for layering and sequencing multiple media types
- About different output formats
Techniques for Embedded User Assistance
In this session, we will review the evolution of embedded UA in software user interfaces, and investigate future developments in this field. With software users becoming more and more reluctant to read, embedded User Assistance is becoming more relevant as it places information in the right place at the right time. There has been a trend for some forms of embedded User Assistance to become the responsibility of the software developer, but new tools and technologies are making it possible to reverse this trend. It is now relatively easy for User Assistance to be embedded in the user interface even though it has been authored (and will be maintained) entirely independently of the software code. We will discuss and demonstrate some of the techniques for embedded UA, and explain how technical communicators can encourage these solutions in-house.
- How embedded User Assistance developed and what forms it currently takes
- About different embedded User Assistance options through demonstrations
- Why embedded User Assistance is preferred by users
- How XML technologies can be used in embedded User Assistance
- How you can promote embedded User Assistance
Exhibitors at UA Europe 2011
Click a logo to view that company's web site.