User Assistance: Prevention or cure?

In 2011, will we see a trend towards preventing users getting stuck, rather than curing them after they’ve got stuck? User Interface design is preventative. Support is curative. User documentation is, in most cases, curative. With new technologies for assisting users emerging, Technical Authors may have the opportunity to provide assistance before users get stuck…. Read more »

Using the Wheel – a story

This is an adapted version of a story from Selling the Wheel, by Jeff Cox: Once upon a time, long ago, a resourceful fellow named Max came up with a brilliant idea and invented the Wheel. He said to his wife, ‘you know what, the Wheel is going to make us lots of money’. His… Read more »

The wonderful, horrible life of User Generated Content

User Generated Content (UGC), that is user documentation written by users, is growing trend in the world of technical communication. However, although there are enormous benefits from UGC, we’ve found it can lead users to miss professionally written user documentation. The consequence of this can be that users search and navigate down blind allies in a… Read more »

In praise of dummies

We live in a world so diverse and so complex that everyone has to deal with situations where we’re really don’t know what’s going on. We have to ‘drive blindly’ – we’re all dummies at some time or another. The reality is, it’s rarely your fault. The last person said to know everything about the… Read more »

Why do Technical Authors only use two of the three qualities of good design?

Why do Technical Authors only use two of the three qualities of good design? Vitruvius, the Roman architect, claimed a structure must exhibit the three qualities of firmitas, utilitas and venustas: it must be solid, useful and beautiful. Paul Mijksenaar, a modern day Information Designer, turned these qualities into a practical three-point formula: Reliability, Utility and… Read more »