Key Concept Archive

Cognition, Design, and Usability: An Primer for Technical Communicators

Nothing is inherently usable. Rather, usability is about cognition—or how our minds process sensory input. If technical communicators understand such factors, they can create materials that address them and develop more usable designs. In this session, the presenter overviews Cognitive factors affecting expectations of design and usability Methods for researching…

Building a Style Guide from the Ground Up

How do you establish a style guide, and how do you keep it going? In this session, I’ll talk about my experience implementing and maintaining a corporate style guide. What started as a casual department guide for 25 tech writers is now a formal style guide for all content creators…

Always be learning

You can learn interesting things that apply directly to you…from a totally different discipline. Recently, I was reading a story about Board Game Designers. I may be a board game geek, but that’s not why the story was interesting. The story was more about UI/UX and things that technical writers…

UI/UX for technical communicators is the theme for TC Summer Camp 2017

I sit on the TC Camp board and am sponsoring the Structured Authoring workshop at TC Summer Camp in DC on September 9th. Every year, we ask what topic people want for the morning workshops. So far only one topic has been in the top of the voting for both…

Teaching Martians to make a sandwich–How Technical Writers can improve patient safety

There’s a well-known exercise to experienced technical writers: How do you teach a Martian to make a sandwich. It’s so well known that we talk about it as an exercise in best practices for user experience and modern instructional design. In the last few years, this exercise has become a…

Who Are You? (I Really Wanna Know)

“Who is the audience for this project?” runs the risk of a smarty-pants response (“the user”). For a smart answer, take time to define and understand who is reading and using the information you develop. In this TC Dojo session, we’ll talk about audience analysis: what it is, ways to…

Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

Technical writers are paying more attention to UI/UX because documentation is part of the user experience. Technical writers, who explain user interface elements and design how-to documents for user tasks and procedures, know when a design choice will have repercussions. We can recognize when a design choice is similar to one we’ve encountered…

Want to see what kind of software docs engineers celebrate?

I see posts on LinkedIn all the time about training in writing API docs or how best to document software systems. Here in Silicon Valley, it’s the hottest sub-discipline in techcomm. In fact, API docs are so popular, they have an API Docs training class on the day before TC Camp in…

12 tips from UX designers that Techcomm folks should know too

Next to API docs, UI/UX is one of the fastest growing sub-domains in technical writing. Not surprising, because documentation contributes to the user experience and explain how to use a product’s user interface.In May, I spotted an article by Robert Hoekman, Jr. that I’ve now read several times. He called it…

Tell a good story (It’s the shape of the curve that matters)

Seems like everyone is talking about story telling. Last April, it was the theme at the STC Spectrum conference.  At STC Summit in 2015, Nancy Duarte gave the keynote based on research she did for her book, “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences,” on the way great speechwriters use emotional trajectory…