Design-led technical documentation

Peter J. Bogaards posted a link on Twitter yesterday to an article and a press release on how IBM is adopting a design-led approach to software design.

“IBM Design Thinking is a broad, ambitious new approach to re-imagining how we design our products and solutions … Quite simply, our goal — on a scale unmatched in the industry — is to modernize enterprise software for today’s user who demands great design everywhere, at home and at work.” (Phil Gilbert, general manager, IBM Design)

I understand the IBM Design Thinking approach will affect everything it does: product development, processes, innovation, and, interestingly, the technical documentation/user assistance associated with products. Both design and traditional technical communication share the same goals – to deliver something that is very usable, robust and aesthetically pleasing – so it makes sense to have the two teams aligned closely.

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Technical Communicators and their Websites

STC Notebook blogI’ve just written a new post for the STC’s Notebook blog on Technical Communicators and their Websites.

We look at some of the challenges and decisions technical communicators face when designing a website for their business. To help illustrate this, I included some examples of technical communication companies’ websites, including our own.

“Engaging your readers in the documentation. How and why social media?”

Sarah Maddox (Technical Writer, Atlassian) is another champion of engaging readers through technical documentation.

Here is a video of her presentation to the Atlassian User Group Wiesbaden. It’s called “Engaging your readers in the documentation. How and why social media?”

See also

How can you tell if it’s only beginners reading your user guides and online Help?

One way of checking to see if only new users are using the technical documentation for a product is to check if there a correlation between the number of users reading the user documentation and the sales of the product.

For example, if the product is following the classic “Bell curve”, and users only need help at a certain moment in time, then the number of users should follow the same pattern. You should see a rise and fall in the number of readers:

Rogers' technology adoption curve

Rogers' technology adoption curve

You can use analytics (and Web analytics in particular), to measure the number of users of any online documentation that you may have. If you don’t currently use Web analytics to measure your user documentation, then an alternative is to use Google Trends to see if there is a correlation between the number of people searching for help for your product and the number of product sales.

Three Technical Communicators discuss trends in technical communication

Scriptorium has published the recording of the webinar it hosted on trends in technical communication. In this webinar, Ellis Pratt, Sarah O’Keefe and Tony Self discussed emerging trends in technical communication.

There was a suprising amount of unanimity between the three of us.

The “Beyond Documentation” Webinar videos

Scriptorium Inc has uploaded the “Beyond Documentation” Webinar Ellis delivered back in August 2009. In this session he looked at the future of technical writing and likely changes to the ways in which user assistance is delivered.

We asked:

  • Are we moving beyond documents?
  • If so, what does this mean for technical communicators?

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

You can see more videos on Cherryleaf’s YouTube channel.