Click here to read about it in this satirical publication.
Please consider contributing to one or both of the following user assistance surveys. The results will be publicly posted. The surveys are specifically designed to collect data for the benefit of all user assistance professionals.
Skills and Technologies Survey Closing Today, Wednesday, February 13
On Saturday, February 2, participants from the September 2012 card-sorting activity reconvened at Lawrence Tech with Pam Finger, MS-TPC candidate at Lawrence Tech, to learn about her analysis, to verify or correct her interpretations, and to discuss how to implement some of these changes.
Everyone agreed we need good navigation and easy-to-scan pages. Everyone wanted information about STC/SM and our activities and programs, a members’ area, contact information, and resources.
Students are looking outward for resources including social networking, professional development opportunities, and program calendars, but had no interest in archives. They are interested in multimedia.
Council members on the other hand, are looking inward for a repository of archived newsletters and program information in the process of developing new programs and other activities.
These groups represent two different audiences. Everyone concurred that a major purpose of the website was to attract new members, so the information that our students gave us was very valuable, and may be representative of what potential new members are looking for. On the other hand, Council needs to be able to find the information they need.
In the course of her research, Finger met with Dave Mitropoulus-Rundus, who had analyzed the previous website and reviewed the current interim website. One thing stuck out as a shortcoming on both: we need a tagline at the top of the page to the right of the logo.
When Pat Martz took over as STC/SM webmaster last June, she felt that the volunteers who work with the website, including blog editors and writers and the webmaster, need a standards-based, easy-to-maintain site.
Recommendations and Next Steps
Finger took all this into account when she prepared wireframes, which we discussed. We realized that we can move archived files into Resources, as that is what they are for Council members. One person pointed out that archives would also serve as resources for students, if they were to write articles or give presentations that they would later like to refer to in a portfolio.
The Council will discuss the mission statement and a better tagline at the next Council meeting.
A new information architecture will be worked up and implemented over the next few months; the resulting website will evolve from the current one, rather than being another complete change.
This presentation by Jack DeLand, a Certified Scrum Master and Agile practitioner, will take you through the roots of Agile technical writing, describe some of its common problems and pitfalls (such as scheduling and working to extremely small time boxes), and end with some real-life practice of the Scrum experience. By the end of the evening, you’ll be a practitioner, too!
Where: LTU, 21000 West Ten Mile Road, Southfield, Michigan, room C406, which is also known as the Welcome Center, in the Alfred A. Taubman Student Services Center in the middle of campus.
When: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 from 6:45 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: Members: $5
Please register for this event.
Written by Thomas Glennan
Most STC/SM program meetings provide the opportunity to learn about new technologies, skills, or applications in the field of technical and professional communication. At the most recent meeting, however, held September 22 at Lawrence Technological University (LTU), attendees not only learned about some of the principles and concepts behind effective web design; they also participated in a workshop that would contribute to the actual redesign and improvement of the chapter’s own web site. And the chapter gained additional insight and feedback into what information and features potential web site users might want and need from the chapter. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning for all involved.
The presentation/workshop was presented by Ms. Pamela Finger, a graduate student in LTU’s Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication (MSTPC) program, and Ms. Pat Gomez Martz, STC/SM chapter webmaster and Pamela’s practicum advisor at LTU. The meeting/workshop began with a brief review of the design and content of the previous web site. The elements of the web site needing attention or improvement were reviewed, including the lack of a central, focused format; its cluttered appearance and layout; and the use of tables in its construction. Pat then discussed the cosmetic and structural changes that have been made to date, many of which were enabled by the CSS stylesheet in the new web site. Not only have these changes improved the usability and navigability of the web site, but they have reduced its size by 87% as well, reducing its cost and complexity.
Before moving on to a discussion of additional changes and revisions to improve the web site further, the meeting attendees participated in a couple of small group activities. These included a questionnaire on the usability and features of the previous web site, and an exercise for grouping or organizing potential website topics or categories in a format that would be logical and user friendly. This data will be compiled and analyzed by Pamela and Pat as they continue their research and investigation into additional chapter web site enhancements, in conjunction with Pamela’s practicum on this topic.
The meeting then transitioned into a group review and evaluation of the web site changes that have been made to date, and their effectiveness and appeal to the meeting participants. Discussion focused on a variety of the considerations and challenges that must be considered when developing a web site and blog, including the desirability of search windows, how to design for mobile applications, how to manage responses to material posted on the blog, and the metrics for measuring blog traffic. Time was also spent with a live, online review of the web sites and blogs maintained by other STC chapters.
These survey and exercise results, along with the discussion and suggestions from the workshop, will now be used by Pamela and Pat to make recommendations to the Southeast Michigan chapter for further improvements to the web site and blog. Will the feedback and suggestions from this workshop and everyone’s hard work pay off? Keep an eye on this web site, and the changes to come, to decide for yourself.
1. What is your educational background? How long have you been a member of STC? In what STC positions have you served? I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Waterloo (Ontario) and I’ve been a member of STC for about 12 years. I served as the membership manager a few years ago.
2. Why did you decide to join STC? I had heard about STC from others at my workplace who, at the time, were on the council. I thought that joining STC would be a good way to meet other writers and gain some insight into the profession of technical communications.
3. Why did you decide to pursue technical communication as a career? In my last job, I was responsible for creating internal procedure manuals for a large computer department, which I found challenging and rewarding. A full-time opportunity arose in 1999 that provided an excellent opportunity to hone those skills and move directly into the profession as a technical writer.
4. Where are you currently employed? I am currently employed as a Senior Technical Writer at Thomson Reuters in Dexter, Michigan.
5. What are your job activities? What do you find most interesting and/or satisfying about your job? I enjoy the collaborative aspect of my job, working with other writers on my team and with subject matter experts to update and create user assistance for our customers. I also enjoy the technical aspect of my job, which involves troubleshooting and evaluating tools that we use on a day-to-day basis.
6. What are some examples of projects you are particularly proud of? I most enjoy the creative aspect of developing user assistance from scratch. I played a major role in the development of online user assistance for an audit engagement product that has won some awards for excellence in the accounting software industry. Our team is currently developing user assistance for the next generation of a similar accounting product.
7. How has being an STC member helped you with your career? Being a member of STC has provided me with an opportunity to broaden my understanding of this multifaceted profession by exchanging ideas and experiences with others in the field.
8. What advice do you have for students as they are entering the field oftechnical communication? I would say that if you keep an open mind, and abandon any preconceived notions about what the profession is all about, you will be surprised at how diverse the field is and the opportunities that it offers.
9. What else would you like our readers to know about you? I have great conversations with my dogs, because as Dave Barry says: “You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, `My God, you’re RIGHT! I NEVER would’ve thought of that!'”