STC Conference Notes from Tuesday May 20th

Here are my notes from Tuesday.

8:30-9:15 Designing Effective User Interface Content – Karen Scipi and Georgia Price Both Karen and Georgia are Language designers(?) for Oracle.   They work with SWD and UX designers to come up with the proper terms and phrases for various products at Oracle.  They talked a lot about being a Language Designer but I’m still not sure what that is. This session was pretty well attended.  The presentation and the slides were good.

  • Good UI will focus on all 3 design aspects, content.
  • Best UI text is clear, short and meaningful.
  • Identify what we can do in the SWD phase
  • Choose precise words and not specialized terms
  • Maintaining terms is very important for consistent messaging and helps to keep translation costs down.
  • Keeps voice and tone consistent.
  • Enables SEO
  • Language, voice and tone must be accurate.
  • Example – Error message, state the error and then the resolution.

9:45-10:30 Content Authoring for Responsive Design – Mike Hamilton Mike is a physics geek.  He worked for a nuclear power plant for several years working on process docs before he decided that it was not for him.  He went to work for BlueSky software after that and is currently working for MadCap.  This was a good presentation.  Lots of good information.

  • Responsive design is a design concept to address stress points, now known as break points in a browser.
  • Ethan Marcotte wrote a white paper on it
  • Responsive Design is not:
    • Making content size smaller to fit the smaller device.
    • Removing content to fit the smaller device
    • A separate version of the same content or every device.
  • Responsive Design is:
    • A single version of the content that formats correctly for all devices, phones, tablets, laptops, and larger screens.
  • The design principles are much more forgiving with Responsive Design, a much looser design is used.
  • The three key areas for Responsive Design are:
    • Document structure
    • CSS3
    • Media Queries
  • In RD less is more, don’t get too fancy at the authoring phase.
  • Hidden tables are bad,  fix size div’s fixed size images, all bad.  No inline formatting.
  • All of the style is done externally via CSS.
  • Couple examples of media queries:
    • @media screen for screen viewing
    • @media print for printing a page

He has some code examples that are simple but pretty good.  I need to get the slides.

  • Media queries can test for screen width/height, screen orientation landscape/portrait, aspect ratio, resolution and a few others.
  • Media queries works best with Chrome, firefox and safari.  Not so well with older versions of IE
  • Focus on content areas and purpose.  Don’t get caught up in the design for the page.
  • Control grid elements using CSS.
  • There are over 31 different device resolutions.  Chasing devices is hard to do.
  • Easier is to determine the min and max that you want to support.  With these end points in mind resize your browser and watch what happens, when things start to get ugly that will determine your first break point.  Continue resizing your browser until it gets ugly again.  That will be your second break point or the break point for a cell phone.
  • Graphics are harder to deal with then text
  • Larger graphics need to be split up in to smaller individual graphics and controlled with CSS.
  • Google search on responsive design.  Lots of information out there
  • To implement this is a pretty big effort.  Not something that can be done quickly.
  • DIV element is used a lot in Responsive Design

Small code sample:

div.rdoverflow {

overflow: auto; (if the content does not fit you will get horizontal scrollbar. )


1:00-1:45 Structured Authoring Meets Responsive Design – Mark Giffin Mark is a tech writer and picked up programming along the way.  DITA is a specialty of his. Not very well attended and only a small amount of information.

  • Structured authoring has been around for a long time and is being talked about more and more along with Responsive Design
  • Structured authoring and responsive can be a powerful combination.
  • Modern age of documentation is a mess.
  • Lots of ways to author
  • Lots of ways to publish
  • Lots of devices to service.
  • Content must be structured to be able to take advantage of Responsive Design

2:15-3:00 Basic Accessibility Tools and Techniques – Joseph O’Conner works for Knowbility Joseph was a fill in for Sharron Rush who was supposed to give the presentation.   He talked a lot about screen readers. I was hoping to get more information on color standards but the entire presentation was around screen readers.

His website is

  • Need to have a solid standard to test by, this includes all of the different browsers
  • WCAG 2.0 level AA Is a testing standard.
  • Test are all done in several different browsers, Chrome, FireFox, Safari
  • Use color checker for color contrast issues

  • Heading levels are important to people using a screen reader.
  • 70% of blind population is unemployed.
  • Enterprise tools will only test about 30% of all of the accessibility testing points
  • Document your findings
  • P.O.U.R
    • Perceivable
    • Operable
    • Understandable
    • Robust
  • Make sure you don’t have a dependency on color – ‘Click the red button’ for example
  • Testing should be a part of the overall TD or QA functions.
  • Look at for a list of accessibility tools

He finished his presentation with a couple of demos of various screen readers.

4:15-5:00 DITA is a Writers Best Friend – Ted Kuster Ted has worked at Salesforce for a couple of years. He has been a tech writer for about 15 years.  This was a good presentation.  Pretty short and basic content but the presentation was good.

  • DITA is an XML framework for technical documentation
  • DITA supports good writing practice
  • DITA is designed for writers
  • Saves you time
  • DITA and XML does not have a steep learning curve.
  • Ted feels he is a better writer now with DITA
  • Why DITA
    • ROI – Managers
    • Production – Engineers
    • Authoring – Writers
  • Writers do 3 things
    • Distill information
    • Assemble information
    • and deliver the information
  • Using the <shortdesc> tag consistently in every topic gave much better search results for Salesforce content.
  • 75% of what Salesforce does is instructional content
  • write a <shotrdesc> for every topic
  • use titles and <shotrdesc> in maps to boost search results