Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
World Usability Day
More information is available at www.WorldUsabilityDay.org.
There's an online discussion about setting up events for World Usability Day at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UsabilityDay
The usability expert Jakob Nielsen has a recent Alertbox article on Weblog Usability. I hope this blog hasn't committed any of the usability mistakes that Nielsen highlights in his article.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Are you an Elbonian?
Elbonia and the Elbonians are devices that Adams uses to illustrate the attitudes and behaviours he wants to make fun of, and he does this with great success.
I am a great fan of the Dilbert series, and often laugh out loud at the latest cartoon, but this week there was a strip that gave me pause for thought. In the cartoon published on 15th October 2005 an Elbonian has mistaken a software CD for a Frisbee(TM) and has complained that it doesn't fly properly. When told of his mistake the Elbonian replies "in my defense, the user's manual was poorly written".
This joke relies on the fact that everyone reading the strip knows, and seems to accept, that software user manuals are generally poorly written. That's a problem for me, as I'm a professional technical writer, and I have made a career out of writing user manuals. Why does everyone think that what I do for a living is always done badly?
The unfortunate truth is that quite often user manuals aren't very good or very useful. I believe that's because in many cases they are written by the wrong sort of people. In many software companies writing the manual is a low-status task left to one of the less experienced programmers. People who aren't professional writers may well understand the products they are describing, but what they don't understand to the same extent are the tasks that the end-users are trying to achieve with the software or the product. This means that although they may describe product features correctly, their descriptions aren't recognised by users as being in any way relevant to their jobs.
This is a great shame, as professional technical writers do aim to write the manual that the user needs, at whatever level of understanding they require. If your product's manual may fall into the stereotype highlighted by Adams's Elbonian perhaps it's time to look for a serious professional technical writer, perhaps one who belongs to a professional association such as the STC or the ISTC. Then your users may have a better chance of recognising your products and using them properly, rather than trying to flick them through the air!
Saturday, October 15, 2005
STC UK event to focus on DITA
The guest speaker will be Alan Houser, president of Group Wellesley, Inc., a firm that provides consulting, training, and application development services to support single-source publishing, electronic publishing, and XML-based publishing. Alan is an Adobe Certified Instructor in FrameMaker and Acrobat, and is a member of the OASIS DITA technical committee.
To read more and book your place visit the STC UK Chapter's web site.
Microsoft to support PDF
Office 12 is due for release in late 2006.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
2005 Trans-European Technical Communication Competition
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Usability Seminar in London
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Microsoft previews new user interface for the next release of Office
In a statement released to the press at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005 in Los Angeles today (13th September 2005) the new UI was hailed as the "biggest, most visible change to the way the core Office applications work since the introduction of the toolbar in 1997."