STC Conference Notes from Monday May 19th

Hi All,

My name is Allen and I work for Autodesk in San Francisco. I attended the STC Conference held in Phoenix AZ May 18th – 21st. It was a great conference with lots of good information. I thought I’d share my notes from the sessions I attended.

Monday May 19th 8:30-9:15 Content Designed for your Audience– Laura Creekmore This was a very good session.  Laura was a good speaker with a lot of good information.

  • Don’t let people get away with making changes to the content based on gut feeling.
  • Talking to your users is the biggest and best thing you can do.  You must know your user.

From here she had an interesting set of slides where she was showing how we have gone away from really knowing our customers/users back in the late 1800’s to today.  How we went from a general store where the store owner knew everyone that came in on a personal bases and could give them that same personal service.  To the first self-serve grocery store, to today where we can by things online and never have to talk to anyone. The companies that do the best with this are the large companies that spent the time up front to really know there customer.

  • We like to measure what’s easy.  Facebook likes, traffic data, YouTube view and comments and so on.
  • Web analytics tell you what, but what we really want to know is why.  Imperfect measure that only tells so much.
  • Use personas from UX data.  You need to use research to gather persona data.  You can’t just sit down and write a persona.  It will be as bad as not knowing anything if you don’t take the information from the user.
  • The best thing is to just get out and talk to your customers.
  • Be careful of putting too much weight behind surveys.  It’s too easy to write a survey with leading questions.
  • Focus groups are not a good way to come up with new ideas.  Hard to keep a focus group focused.
  • Sales and marketing data is sometimes very useful.
  • Product content needs to come from usability and analytics.
  • What is the actual content business goal.  You need to serve the business needs.  If the content is just in the way and is not serving a purpose, get rid of it.
  • Short quick sentences.
  • Every day we use phrases that are customers don’t understand.  Need to get the search data so we can see what the users are typing in to search.
  • An interesting test is to remove every 5th or 6th word and see if the user can fill in the blanks.  If the user can fill in over 60% of the blanks the content is pretty easy to reads.

Book Recommendations:

  • The user is always right – Good detail on how to write personas
  • Letting go of the words – Another great book for personas.
  • Content strategy at work
  • Interviewing users
  • Search and analytics
  • How to measure anything

Website Recommendations:

  • Reading level tests  Can copy content in and it will tell you what grade level you are writing to.
  • The Audience you didn’t know you had. (I need to get the links from the slides.)

9:45-10:30 Targeting Documentation to Your Users Goals – Alyssa Fox The slides were great for this presentation.  I need to get the link when they are posted.  This was another good presentation that was well attended.

  • UX and content go hand in hand.  If UX is bad the content will suffer and not be as good as it should be.
  • Need to really understand the user.  (This is a theme I’m seeing)
  • We really need to push back on SWD about bad UI.  We know UI is bad but just tell them how to use It in the docs.
  • Shrinking headcount means you really need to prioritize what we can get done.
  • Documentation must have context.
  • Traditional was to document everything.  Targeted documentation requires a solid knowledge of your user.
  • For targeted documentation only provide content for what’s really needed or required.  If it is a basic element in the UI like name, address and so on it does not require documentation.  Big picture tasks only.
  • Documentation based on persona is better than documenting only the UI.  From the UI you will only document the product and not how it will help the user or how the user uses your product.
  • Adding FAQ’s or troubling shooting topics are a big help.
  • Don’t waste your time documenting intuitive UI.
  • Start with the minimum information your users need.  Assume the user has some amount of knowledge.
  • Keep in mind that you are not the user.  You don’t use the product like the user does.

Book Recommendations:

  • Usability testing is key rocket surgery made easy – book for testing.

1:00-1:45 Key Trends in Mobile Publishing – Vikram Verma   Vikram works for Adobe as a product manager and was really pushing Adobe products. Had a small number of people in attendance.

  • Sense the iPhone everything has changed for the mobile device.
  • 1 out of every 6 people has a smart phone.  In Europe it is more than 50% of people
  • Late 2013 more people are getting content from a smart phone then on a laptop
  • HTML5 is the most dominant publishing output
  • For mobile use bigger buttons and remember needs to be designed for touch and not mouse input.
  • Design for responsive html.  When the device changes the page should change as well.
  • Users will abandon your content if it is not displayed correctly on a mobile device.
  • Consider a m. url for mobile docs
  • Consider creating a mobile app for your content
  • RESS (Responsive Server Side) is a hybrid of Responsive design and server side components.
  • RESS only has one domain.
  • But optimizing for mobile users with an app is the best way to go about it.  Issues are you have to manage two source content.  Updating app can be a challenge to keep up to date.
  • SEO is best when used with a domain or website.  Getting information on your user is easier with a website.

2:15-3:00 Delivering Technical Content to Mobile Devices – Matt Sullivan  Is an independent contractor that works for Adobe. He is using Framemaker and RoboHelp.

  • Content must be granular and structured for a mobile device.
  • Must establish the user needs first.  Then the tools to use will become more obvious.
  • Responsive output.
  • Responsive content gets placed higher when searched from a mobile device then none responsive.

3:30-4:15 What do Viewers of Video Really Want? – Matthew Pierce   This was a great presentation.  Good attendance and good information. He is with TechSmith and is working on , Camtasia, SnagIt and so on.  He is an industrial designer.  Then he moved in to a management role working with the training department then Tech Support.  Now he is running the video team.  (They have a good video library)

  • He thinks of video from a tech marketing position and learning.
  • It’s important to look at your audience for video.  Do your own research.
  • He feels video will be more accessible for people to consume and easier for people to create.
  • He surveyed 1900 people about videos.  Asked to send videos they thought were really good with more of a focus on Information and instructional.
  • Half of the videos from the survey were videos of entertainment.  Other half were Information and instructional.
  • Of the 1900 people they had a really good cross section of age groups from 15 to 75+
  • He feels video views will be increasing.  (But to me he is only looking at it from a delivery point of view and not from a user point of view.  Did not really get in to how useful videos are just that more people are watching them.)
  • Information and instructional videos are watched in the morning and in the evening when they get home mostly on their own time.
  • Length of video depends on type.  Their research is showing that longer videos are ok if the content is high quality and it keeps the user attention.  This is a length of 3 to 5 mins.
  • Video is an investment in time.  High cognitive load.
  • 82% of people will stop a video if it is not of interest to them.  (He feels this is really 100%)
  • People stop watching because, not the expected information, had other things to do, wrong topic, bored and bad content, bad audio.
  • Can’t skim videos like you can text, hard to scrub, can’t search on a specific section of the video.
  • Audio is just as important.  Good clear voice, good tone.  You can move pretty quick through a video as long as the content is clear and you are not trying to give the user too much information.
  • Things that make for great video attributes.  Trusted Brand, Callout text or closed caption, video with speakers for introduction, Music.  Music may not be appropriate for Information and instructional
  • People like things that move, intros and outros, allow comments in your videos.  YouTube is good for this.
  • Quality of video for Information and instructional means a lot.  People will just turn it off if it is not a good quality video.
  • Engagement starts with good story and script, good models, good video quality.