STC Conference Notes from Wednesday May 21th

Here are my notes from Wednesday

8:30-9:15 Creating Help Systems for the Modern User – Kevin Siegel Founder of Iconlogic Kevin has been creating help systems for 15 to 20 years.  This session is about help systems that are successful and not successful.  He is big on Captivate.  It was a good session and very well attended.

  • This session will cover
    • attention span
    • no scrolling
    • engage your user
    • planning a
    • outputting
  • Most people will not scroll to get through your content.  They will give up and go to another topic.
  • Graphics are ok but videos are better in your content
  • Videos should be links and not embedded in topics.  This will reduce the scrolling.
  • Kevin is using a button that opens a menu with links as an example.  This reduces the clutter on the screen.  In testing 90% of people felt more comfortable seeing a menu rather than a dialog.
  • Short and sweet videos is key
  • Videos should have length of time so the user has a good idea of commitment
  • 15 seconds is home long you have before your average user starts to lose interest.
  • Google glass and heads up display ( HUD) are both examples of very small displays for content
  • e-ink is another small format display
  • More and more people are accessing content on a mobile device.
  • In testing an overwhelming number of people want demo videos and not interactive videos.
  • Remember to add alt text  to graphics and videos for accessibility.

He ended with a RoboHelp demo.

9:45-10:30 Beyond the Bleeding Edge – Neil Perlin This session was pretty good to just listen to.  This is a case study of a guy that needs to get his content from Framemaker to a Salesforce knowledgebase.  He wanted to populate the knowledgebase with his content to help out the support people.  When they get a call from a customer they can see if the solution exists in the documentation before they write a new solution.  He mentioned the support people have access to help but they never really look at help and he was hoping to get his help content a little more in the face of the support staff.   There is no easy way to populate the knowledgebase in this way his so he had to come up with this work around. I’ll get the link to the slides.  He had to use a list of tools to make this happen.  The process he came up with is very convoluted.  If anything is off or wrong along the way it will not work.  Lots of prep needs to happen to the Framemaker files before you can start the process. One of the many problems I can see is that you now have split the source and you have two streams of content to maintain.  So if you have an update or issue in the Frame docs you need to make the change in two places or run the process over again.

11:00-11:20 Applying Learn Principles to the Documentation – Alan Houser

This was a nice presentation. Lots of people and lots of good info. Alan does a good job with his presentations.

  • What is lean
    • maximize customer value
    • minimum waste
  • Big ideas
    • build/measure/learn
    • get out of the build talk to the customers
    • min viable product
    • pivot being able to change direction if needed.
  • What we tend to care about
    • deliverables
    • schedule
    • tool
    • origination structure
    • office  politics
    • legacy for formats
  • The customer only cares about getting the information they need and getting the issue resolved so they can get back to work.  Help cannot stand in the way of this.

This is not the time for “We’ve always done it that way” thinking

  • How/When does your team pivot
    • Budget cuts
    • Re-org
    • Reduction in force

Try to be in front of this and pivot before these happens.

  • What do we measure
    • Number is pages
    • Number of topics
    • Words/topic
    • Word count
    • And so on

Customers don’t care about any of that.

  • At the end of the day nothing is better than getting closer to your customer
  • Documentation Waste is if it does not provide customer value then it needs to be removed
  • Let it go!  The fancy formatting and perfect page layout means nothing if the customer does not get the information they need
  • Make sure you always ask ‘how is this providing value to the customer’

Recommended books

  • Lean Thinking
  • The Lean Startup
  • Lean UX
  • Running Lean

11:35-11:55 The Creative Habit – Kelsey Ruger This session started early and I missed the very beginning.  It was a great session with good slides. Because it was a short session and the speaker was so engaging it was best to just sit and listen.  Not much of an opportunity for notes. Search around and see if you can find his slides.

12:10-12:30 The Cracker Jack Theory of User Assistance – Ray Gallon  This was another good session and the last session of the day.  It was very well attended and the speaker was great.  Lots of knowledge.

  • Building cognitive demand.  How do we do that in UA?

He used ‘How do you use the camera’ as an example

  • How do I take a good photo what does that mean start using the camera
  • Hands on practice
  • Implicit and factual comprehension
  • Embed concept material in tasks

What is Mastery

  • He talked about what he called the ‘Cognitive Spiral’
  • Learning is a spiral that represents a time of opportunity and time to practice
  • From starting out as a beginner to becoming a master user
    • Retrieve explicit information
    • Interpret explicit information
    • Apply and use the information
    • Reflect on and evaluate the content.  This is where the users can be a big help to us with real feedback
    • Reflect on and evaluate the form of the message
  • These are really expert users
  • He defined Good UA as:
    • Give people the tools to get themselves out of trouble
    • Appeal to emotions and self-satisfaction
    • Crowd source the pain points.  Get the info from the user
    • Collect and analyze failure because if you don’t the social world will.  He used Dell computer as an example
    • Remember that failure is a learning experience.  Fail early and fail often
  • FAQ are solutions in search of a problem.
  • Let’s not insult our users by documenting very basic tasks.