You can now download our white paper “Towards an Agile authoring methodology”

Towards an Agile authoring methodologyYou can now download our Adobe-commissioned white paper “Towards an Agile authoring methodology” via Adobe’s website.

Agile development is a way of managing IT development teams and projects that creates new challenges for those involved in providing User Assistance for those products.

See: Towards an Agile authoring methodology

You can now download our white paper “The changing nature of content”

Changing nature of content white paper imageYou can now download our Adobe-commissioned white paper “The changing nature of content” via Adobe’s website.

“Some organizations are changing the way they write User Assistance, and are, for some content, not using the generally accepted best practices. Through web analytics and other measures, organizations are reporting a noticeable benefit from making these changes.”

See: The Changing Nature of Content

Is re-using content a good or a bad thing to do?

Today’s BBC News Web site has a piece on Ofsted re-using sentences in more than one school inspection report:

An investigation has begun into claims that Ofsted approved “cut and paste” inspection reports using identical sentences and phrases…both reports say: “Some teachers do not plan learning for pupils at their different levels of ability and marking is not leading to improvement.”
Both reports make comments about the low attainment of pupils in reading, writing and maths which vary by just a few words.

‘Cut and paste’ Ofsted report claims

Clearly it’s wrong if if a report has been put together with little thought, or if it contains information that is incorrect, irrelevant or inappropriate.

However, if the information the writer wants to convey has been said before, surely having access to a collection of re-usable sentences is a good thing?

 

Technical Communication’s top influencers

Mindtouch has compiled an updated list of the most influential techcomm bloggers. The top six most influential bloggers are based in the USA; Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt comes in at No. 7, making him, according to this list, the most influential techcomms blogger in Europe.

Most Influential Techcomm

It does conjure up images of someone stroking a white persian cat in their mountain lair – do bloggers and tweeters really have a great deal of influence on their community?

Video of a simple report writing solution

Here’s a video of a proof of concept prototype we’re putting together for a client. The system automates the creation of field reports. It creates a skeleton document, with key content populated. Many pages contain guidance on what to write.It is probably the lowest cost content management system we’ve put together.

If you can see the video below (there’s a problem viewing it on the main page of the blog) you can view it here.

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Report reveals Cherryleaf has Europe’s most influential blog on technical communication

Mindtouch has published a report on the Most Influential Technical Communicator Bloggers. Cherryleaf’s blog, managed by Cherryleaf’s Sales and Marketing director Ellis Pratt, comes in at No.5, and is the highest ranking blog located outside of the USA.

The purpose of this blog is to explore the value of technical documentation in all its forms. We’re asking “how we can be more effective and more efficient in what we deliver for our customers and their users?”, and “how can we best demonstrate and measure the value of what we do?”. Judging by this report, these issues are of interest to others as well.

The business case for SaaS (Software as a Service)

Intellect’s SaaS group has published recently a paper called “The business case for Software as a Service“. The paper lays out the technical and cost benefits of SaaS, together with checklists covering selection criteria, legal considerations and comparisons of SaaS applications to traditional in-house systems.

Cherryleaf made some minor contributions to this paper – so minor we didn’t think they merited our listing as contributors to this paper (a mistake in hindsight).

The report states, SaaS applications are generally easy to use and don’t require a great deal of training and online Help. So why is this?

In part, it’s because:

1. SaaS applications are newly developed applications. This means the developers have been able to build upon the recent developments in usability, when they’ve developed the application.

2. SaaS products typically deal with familiar business tasks, such as finance and sales prospecting. Where a SaaS application does try to explain new concepts or tasks (viz. Google Wave), users can still find they struggle to use the application.

3. SaaS applications can be fixed quickly and are usually subject to continuous improvement. Pilot programmes can be much smaller and quicker to conduct. SaaS applications can be measured and tested more easily, using Web Analytics. 

See also: Cherryleaf’s Developing Help for Web-based applications and SaaS services.

Hopefully, the checklists in the paper will serve as good guides and help you navigate the hype that currently surrounds SaaS and avoid any pitfalls.

UK General Medical Council’s solution for reducing prescription errors? More usable, better designed forms

The BBC News today has a great example of the impact procedures documents and usable forms can have upon people’s lives. It reports the General Medical Council is is calling for a UK-wide standard prescription chart as the best way to reduce the 9% of hospital prescriptions that contain a mistake. Against common opinion, the study found it wasn’t  doctors fresh out of medical school who were making the most mistakes – the causes were mostly down to poor forms and bad handwriting.  

The chairman of the GMC, Professor Peter Rubin, said:

 ”Prescribing decisions in a hospital setting often have to be made quickly, so it is important that a procedure is as simple as possible to minimise the chance of an error being made.

To avoid confusion as doctors move between hospitals with very different prescribing forms – including paper and electronic – the GMC wants to see a standardised system across the UK.

A Department of Health spokesman said it would continue to look into the benefits of electronic prescribing systems,

 ”taking into account the evidence gained where standardisation of the paper chart has been successfully implemented.”

Dr Hamish Meldrum, of the doctors’ union, the BMA, said:

“It would certainly help if there was greater uniformity in the prescription forms used in the NHS and the BMA would encourage prescribing procedures to be kept as simple as possible.”

 It’s good to see recognition, in such an important area, of the value of good procedures writing and form design.