You can now create a free iPad magazine for your online Help, training and support content

Flipboard magazineFlipboard is a popular app for the iPad and Android devices that presents information in a magazine layout.

Users can subscribe to different topics, with the content pulled in from the links tweeted by their friends on Facebook and Twitter. They can also view Web sites and blogs (if they contain a RSS feed) as an online magazine.

Flipboard has just released version 2 of its application, which enables users to create their own magazines by clipping content from a variety of different Web sites.

In other words, brands can now curate their own selections and publish these in a consistent and elegant looking format. Flipboard will create a cover for your magazine with “pull out” headlines, and it will notify you if other people have commented on the items you have included in your magazine.

According to Flipboard, since its launch, their users have been creating one magazine per second.

For Technical Authors, this means you could easily deliver online Help, training, user generated and support content in an attractive looking format.

According to The Daily Telegraph:

This latest move marks an even bigger, more significant step, taking the principle of a personalised and interactive internet, and bringing that to mainstream content delivery…This move confirms that the nature of content delivery is changing. It’s no longer about capturing crowds of many, but the audience of one. This audience of one doesn’t care about the usual magazine and newspaper release schedules, or about trawling through multiple sites to find the articles of most interest; it wants to read its favourite piece of content when it wants, and how it wants and values the curation of like-minded tastemakers, who provide a means to discover new content and cut through the clutter.

You can already view the Cherryleaf Blog as a Flipboard magazine (in Flipboard, just search on Cherryleaf or http://www.cherryleaf.com/blog/feed/), and you’ll also find a test magazine we’ve created called “The MadCap Writer”.

Let us know what you think of the potential for using Flipboard in User Assistance.

See also: Cherryleaf content strategy services

Even iPad users search for Help

One of the graphs posted in yesterday’s blog showed the number of people searching for IPad Help.

Here is the graph:

For a product that “just works”, there is an increasing number people searching the Web for iPad Help. However, part of that increase can be put down to the increasing number of iPad sales:

ipad sales graph

What we can conclude is that even users of products as simple and intuitive to use as the iPad search the Web for Help on how to use it. If you decide not to provide that Help, then users are likely to get the information from someone else – either in a forum, a YouTube video, blog, Web site etc. Places generally, outside of your control.

Announcing our ‘Using the iPad as a documentation device’ workshop: 31 May 2012

We’ve completed the slides and booked the training room for our new workshop, Using the iPad (and other tablets) as a documentation device:

With more and more people using the iPad and other tablets for reading technical documentation, this workshop looks at how tablets can be used by organisations to design and deliver technical documents and other forms of User Assistance.

The course will be held in Central London on Thursday 31 May 2012, 9.30am-12.30pm.

You do not need to have a tablet to attend this course, or have previous knowledge of using a tablet.

This course is aimed at Technical Authors and others developing technical documentation and other forms of Help for users.

Places cost £175 ex VAT. For more information, and to book, see Using the iPad (and other tablets) as a documentation device.

Update on our iPad as a documentation device training course

Here’s an update on the training workshop we’re currently developing on how to use the iPad and other tablets as a device for delivering documentation. The trainer’s slide deck has been completed and is out for review. Once that’s been signed off, we’ll check the timings and determine if this is a half or full day session.

We’ve selected the venue in central London, so, after that we’ll be able to announce the date and prices for the course.

The primary focus will be on the iPad, but we can also cover what’s possible on other tablets.

iPad

We’ll cover items such as:

  • How organisations are creating, in just 30 seconds, online magazines for “getting started” guides, tips and tricks, training guides and FAQs, using existing content from your Web site and blogs.
  • Apps for reading content
  • Tools for creating content
  • What works/ what doesn’t work
  • Implications for the future, how to use the iPad to gain and edge over your competition etc

Let us know if you would be interested in attending this event.

Training workshop on using the iPad (and other tablets) as a documentation device

We’re considering running a training workshop on how to use the iPad and other tablets as a device for delivering documentation. The primary focus will be on the iPad, but we can also cover what’s possible on Android tablets.

If there is sufficient interest, then we’ll run a course.

We’ll cover items such as

  • How organisations are creating, in just 30 seconds, online magazines for “getting started” guides, tips and tricks, training guides and FAQs, using existing content from your Web site and blogs.
  • Apps for reading content
  • Tools for creating content
  • What works/ what doesn’t work
  • Implications for the future, how to use the iPad to gain and edge over your competition etc
  • IPad and PDFs – reading them on the device, copying them onto the iPad.

Let us know if you would be interested in attending such an event.

Location is likely to be in London or the South East of England.

Designing documents for the iPad 3: the return of old design metaphors

After a few days of using the new iPad 3, it seems likely that, in the future, documents will be designed to take advantage of its retina display. Below are some thoughts on the new trends we’ll see in the way documents are designed for reading on tablet devices.

The paper metaphor

It has been good practice to present information published on paper and information published on screen differently. The limitations of computer screens, (for example, the screen resolution, screen flicker and eye strain issues) have meant long, linear documents don’t work on a screen. People like the resolution, portability and ability to make notes that paper provides. Paper simply is a great medium for deep learning and reading on the move.

It means organisations expect PDFs to be read on screen, when in reality they are printed out by users. Often the promised printing savings by distributing content online were never actually realised.

With the iPad 3′s screen, most of the limitations of reading on screen have been eliminated. Indeed, Apple is promoting it as a device for reading textbooks – which is can be an example of deep learning. It’s like paper in that it’s portable, you can make notes and you don’t get eye strain.

This means, we’re likely see documents on screen that look like documents printed on paper. It may be time for Technical Authors to dust off that copy of “Dynamics in Document Design”! For books that use Apple’s iBooks, we’ve found you tend to read page by page, instead of using the “peck and scan” approach common reading online content.

A new metaphor for online documents – Metro

The paper metaphor is not the only metaphor you can use. The new Metro UI, developed by Microsoft for Windows 8 and smartphones, is another design metaphor that is being adopted.

The Metro UI uses the following approaches:

  • Information is consolidated groups of common tasks to speed up use. This is done by relying on the actual content to function as the main UI.
  • The result is an interface that uses a “grid approach”, using large blocks (instead of small buttons, as well as laterally scrolling “canvases”.
  • Page titles are usually large and scroll off the page laterally.
  • The UI responds to users actions, by using animated transitions or other forms of motion.

An example of this is the Guardian iPad app:

According to The Guardian’s Andy Brockle:

We have created something that is a new proposition, different to other digital offerings. It works in either orientation and nothing is sacrificed. Instead of it being based on lists, breaking news, and the fastest updates it’s instead designed to be a more reflective, discoverable experience.

Displaying images

With the ability to pinch and zoom, readers have the ability to look at images in great detail. This may mean writers will need to present their documents in SVG format, but if we assume they stick to bitmap formats such as .jpg and .png, we’re still likely to see a change in the way documents that rely on images are designed. Instead of needing a series of separate images to display detail, the writer can provide a single image for the reader to explore. It also seems likely we’ll see images that contain “layers” that can be peeled off to reveal the underlying details.

Unresolved aspects

We’re at the beginning of the process of making the most of portable devices with “real-life” displays, so document design is likely to evolve further. It’s still unclear what is the best navigation UI for iPad3 readers.

The bear trap

There is a huge bear trap waiting to catch out organisations – that they assume what works on iPad 3′s retina display will work on screens with lower resolutions.

Conclusion

The more you use the iPad’s new screen, the more you realise it will change the way documents are designed in the future – the biggest possibly being a move from on screen content being structured laterally instead of vertically. With predictions of there being more iPads than citizens of the United States of America by the end of next year, there’ll be more and more reasons for optimising content for the iPad 3.