We’re speaking at UA Europe 2011

We’ve been invited to speak at UA Europe 2011, which is being held in Brighton on 16th-17th June. Ellis Pratt will be speaking on:  You win! Getting users to RTFM using techniques from games.

It’s claimed that games are a powerful way of affecting user behaviour, so can we apply game theory to the provision of User Assistance and increase its uptake?

In this presentation, we’ll look at games such as Frequent Flyer Programmes, Google AdWords, as well as more recognisable games software. We’ll look at what makes makes some successful and others failures.

We’ll also look at how organisations are today applying game techniques to Web sites, Help files and support communities, in order to drive a positive response, participation and engagement from their users.

We hope to see you there.

Ellis to speak about documentation as an emotional experience at TCUK 2010

Ellis Pratt, Sales and Marketing Director at Cherryleaf, will be speaking at this year’s Technical Communication UK conference on “Documentation as an emotional experience for the user”.

Many organisations are starting to look at creating a ‘customer experience strategy’. This is management-speak for generating customer advocacy, brand loyalty and an emotional attachment to a product or company. So do those writing technical documentation need to adapt to these changes?

In this presentation, we’ll look at how users have, over time, changed the way they use technology – how we’ve moved from an era of creating, to an era of connecting and onto one of belonging. We’ll ask, should technical documentation also help people do more than assist someone to complete a task? Can you write technical documentation that also provides users with a more emotional experience? If so, how should you do it?

The conference will be held on 21-23 September 2010 at the Oxford Belfry hotel, near Thame in Oxfordshire. Ellis is provisionally booked to speak 14.00-14.40 on Wednesday 22nd September, and he’ll be around for the whole of the main conference (22nd & 23rd).

As we’ll be looking at engagement and feeling involved, we’d like you to get involved in this presentation. What particular aspects would you like Ellis to cover? What do you think about the concept of making documentation a more emotional experience for the user?

Let us know your thoughts.

UK Technical Authors reveal 5 business benefits of Web-based Help

Having your online Help published on the Web could do wonders to your business. Here are five business benefits:

1. Marketing SEO benefits

The search engines love the type of information-rich content that online Help contains (more information), because the content is valuable and other Web sites link to it. The result is these pages appear high in search engine rankings ( See Using Web Analytics in Technical Documentation: interview with an expert).

This improvement could also lead to an increase in leads from your Web site.

2. Reduce stress on your Support line

Many users begin by looking for answers on the Web before they call the support line ( see “Digital Natives” and the end of traditional hotline support and our support call cost reduction calculator). If they find the answer on the Web, then they won’t need to call the Support line.

3. Better customer service

There’s a new generation growing up who are shying away from telephone-based support in favour of text-based support (more information). By delivering assistance in the way they prefer, your providing better customer service.

4. Greater brand loyalty

You can allow your user community to add to the content. They not only improve it, but they also get a greater sense of belonging to your brand (more information).

5. Improved product development

  • You can get a better understanding of where users struggle with your product.
  • Web Analytics can tell you how many thousands of people are reading the Help and what they are searching for.

Workshop on on career development – an approach and key skills

I’ve been asked to present a workshop at the STC TransAlpine Conference on “career development – an approach and key skills”. This will be held on 8th June in Vienna. I’m a late replacement for a speaker who has unfortunately been taken ill.

We’ll look at:

  • Future trends in technical communication – where’s it all heading
  • Personality of success – for technical authors
  • Marketing yourself (with exercises)
  • Job hunting and networking (with exercises)

Delegates can also bring along their CVs/Resumes and I ‘ll critique them.

“The worst Help system I have ever seen”

Sarah Maddox reported from the WritersUA conference that Microsoft’s April Reagan gave a frank presentation on the planning and design that has gone into version 3 of Microsoft Help.

She was quoted as saying the feedback on the Help 2 (used in Windows Vista) was poor. For example, “This is the worst help system I have ever seen”. 

At a previous WritersUA conference, Joe Welinske reported Microsoft implemented a couple of changes when it developed the online Help for Vista. The biggest changes were (a) they developed a new Help viewer and (b) they used technical journalists instead technical authors to write the Help topics. They chose journalists because they wanted Help topics to be closer to knowledge-base articles. I’m not aware of any other major changes.

I wonder if the change in writing  style was the main cause of such negative feedback towards Vista’s Help. Users often just want to do things, and they can be best helped by short, clear chunks of text focused on getting the job done.

It will interesting to see if Microsoft changes its approach to writing, as well as the Help viewer itself,  in future releases of Windows.