Automating content layout without losing flexibility

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One of the major advantages of DITA and XML lies in automating layout. One of the major challenges of deploying DITA and XML lies in automating layout.

Automating layout is a tedious task performed by some technically gifted persons. But what if there are dozens, even hundreds of different layouts? Then automating layout becomes expensive and only available to large-scale projects. Rolling out structured authoring to areas with such layout requirements is virtually impossible.

What if the required layout cannot be fully automated? Then performance and security gains on the authoring side may be eaten up by finetuning the generated output. This might be a show stopper on an otherwise worthwhile move to DITA and XML content management.

In this presentation Sebastian Göttel explains how SCHEMA tries to tackle the challenge by allowing for automating layout without scripting or repeatedly fine tuning. Layout automation and flexibility do not have to be in contradiction!

This is a vendor session delivered by Stefan Freisler.

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Using technology to simplify export documentation

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Business West working with their IT partners i2i, have built upon their combined expertise in assisting companies to export and tackle the bureaucracy and paperwork associated with exporting. The platform creates the myriad of documents required via a single entry point and then enables these to be shared both up and down the supply chain.

The resulting award winning platform www.acorninteractive.co.uk is now assisting exporters across the globe and enables them to engage with a raft of related export services.

The team will outline how they identified the market opportunity, scoped and developed the technology and are now taking this innovative solution to the end users.

This session is delivered by James Monk and Penny Underwood.

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Creating adaptive content for multi-screen devices: Challenges and solutions

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In this era of device explosion, when consumers are spending more time on smartphones and tablets than on PCs, it has become increasingly important for organizations to reach their customers by offering content on these new devices. However, it is easier said than done, as the traditional output formats such as Webhelp are ill-suited for these devices because of their varying screen sizes.

In this presentation, Vikram Verma, Product Manager, Adobe Systems, will describe how organizations are adapting to the multi-device era and will share the best practices to keep in mind while creating content for these devices. He will also discuss some of the content strategies relevant for these devices and will show you how to publish your content and make it accessible to end-users.

This is a vendor presentation by Vikram Verma of Adobe.

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Embracing change: How two technical authors made their skills go further

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Marilyn Heron and Nick Tonge give an insight into their varied roles at Pace plc, showing how these have extended beyond that of the traditional author. Using examples of their work in consumer electronics for the Americas market, they describe:

  • How they became responsible for designing the labelling on products and cartons. This led to:
    • input into product design
    • increased understanding of the manufacturing processes
    • discussions with suppliers
    • research into labels and materials
  • How they took over the design of carton artwork
  • How their typical authoring tasks changed, moving away from user manuals, words and paper.

This session is delivered by Marilyn Heron and Nick Tonge.

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The incremental steps towards dynamic and embedded content delivery

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Dynamic delivery is delivery of context-appropriate information that can be assembled at the time of request with the most up-to-date, relevant content appropriate for the user and interface in question.

Embedded content is where content becomes a seamless part of device interfaces. Products become “self-describing”, allowing users to work uninterrupted by the need to open help files or manuals.

Many aspire to working in this way, but few (so far) have achieved it. This workshop looks at the benefits, requirements, and barriers related to these new types of delivery.

We will look at:

  • Why should we bother with this type of delivery?
  • What type of techniques, technologies and skills are required to realise such a system?
  • What are the risks at each stage?

Requirements:

  • Laptop with MS Word-compatible editor
  • Ability to read from a USB stick

This workshop is facilitated by Noz Urbina.

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Bake your own taxonomy

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This workshop will give technical communicators a guided opportunity to develop a documentation structure, with the emphasis on doing justice to existing, unstructured content, rather than merely recreating the concept, task, and reference ‘holy trinity’ of topic types. Chris and Kai will outline basic principles of creating a taxonomy and an information model, drawing on cognitive science concepts like learning and mental models, to explain why standard topic types don’t always work, but why taxonomies do. They will also show how information models can be effective in making structured content easier to understand, and efficient for technical communicators to reuse. The workshop will give attendees practice at using physical media to turn unstructured content into structured documentation, at deducing and sketching out taxonomies based on existing content. Techniques such as card sorting may be of particular interest to attendees whose job roles touch on usability, user experience, or information architecture.

This workshop is facilitated by Chris Atherton and Kai Weber.

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Digital accessibility: Strategy, content and delivery

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Delivering content across different digital channels is an accepted part of today’s communication landscape. But how do you make sure your information is reaching everyone who wants (or needs) to access it?

This presentation will explain how to create a successful digital accessibility strategy. It will look at existing standards and frameworks, accessibility as part of agile and waterfall methodologies, and provide best practice guidance for accessible content across different platforms.

This session is delivered by Léonie Watson.

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Single-source/content management beyond text: Dealing with graphics and multimedia

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For most authors the concepts of content reuse are nothing new. Whether you work under the labels of “single-source publishing”, “content management”, or “multi-channel publishing” it all boils down to writing content once, maximizing reuse, and (hopefully) never resorting to content duplication to achieve your publishing goals. All of this works beautifully with text, but various media elements have always been the Achilles heel of content reuse. In this session Mr. Hamilton will explore concepts and techniques to bring graphic and multimedia elements into the content management workflow.

This session is delivered by Mike Hamilton.

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Working with product management – how important is the information experience?

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How well do you know your product manager? Do they come to you to understand what the user experience is like when using the product and associated help? If not, then maybe it is time they should. According to the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), products that deliver unique benefits and superior value to the customer are the primary drivers of success and product profitability. This doesn’t just relate to function, it also relates to the user experience as a whole, a massive part of that being how a user feels about the help and ‘documentation’ that is presented to them as part of that experience.

Sophie will discuss her experiences working with product management in terms of ensuring the right message is being delivered across the product, but also in making the product teams aware of the impact that the written word has on the user experience.

This session is delivered by Sophie McMonagle.

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Using screen video: best practices, regardless of the tool

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Screen videos have been growing in popularity as ways to provide detailed information and document processes. Many in the Technical Communication field are finding that they need to expand their skills beyond writing to communicate with their audiences. Many already use screenshots, but will benefit from creating screen videos.

We will focus on tips for making screen videos, including tips for recording, editing and producing – regardless of the tools used to make the video. Be prepared to walk away with ideas that you can apply, whether it’s your first or fiftieth video.

This session is delivered by Matt Pierce.

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Managing accessible mobile content

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There are two trends that technical communicators must be aware of, and manage.

  1. In some regions or market sectors, you might not be permitted to sell your products or services unless you can demonstrate accessibility.
  2. The growth of mobile platforms continues to accelerate.

In this presentation, we review the implications of these trends when taken together, illustrated with simple examples. We will explore the impact of accessibility and mobility interaction, and outline ways in which you and your organization can manage technical content to benefit from the resulting opportunity.

This session is delivered by Adrian Warman.

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Time-saving tools and techniques for capturing screens

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This session starts by presenting examples of how screenshots can really add value to software documentation and user assistance. You’ll then learn the key steps you need to take at capture time: these include guidelines on setting colour depth, sizing UI objects, and capturing drop-down menus. The session concludes with demonstrations of the most popular and powerful screen capture tools and strategies that are available.

You will learn:

  • Where, when, and how screenshots can really add value
  • The key steps for capturing a window, screen region, or object successfully
  • An overview of the tools available
  • The strengths and weaknesses of each tool
  • A range of powerful tips for saving time
  • Guidelines on single-sourcing screenshots for print- and screen-based presentation

This session is delivered by Matthew Ellison.

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Was this written by a cat on a keyboard? The useless assistance project

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Over a year ago Edward Smyda-Homa started a brave Felix Baumgartner-like, spiraling plunge through the Twitter-sphere. He created and maintains a Twitter account called Useless Assistance (@uselessassist), which contains retweets to remind organizations of the frustration and negative emotions that result from poorly prepared assistance.

This presentation is a light-hearted look at the poor assistance people are encountering and attempts to categorise the common gripes. How organizations are monitoring and responding to such negative assistance-related tweets will also be examined. It is hoped that the findings shared will trigger discussion on how quality issues in our trade can be addressed.

This session is delivered by Edward Smyda-Homa.

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Content delivered? Check. OK how do we use it?

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You spend months developing your content. You deliver it and wait for your users to say how good it is. The problem is, how many users REALLY know how to get the best from it. For example, do they know:

  • What content is there?
  • How best to find what they require?
  • How to navigate around the content?

In this presentation you will see how training users about your content increases customer satisfaction and reduces support costs. If you can’t do this directly, it will show how others can do it on your behalf.

This presentation is delivered by Colum McAndrew.

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