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UA Europe Conference
UA Europe Conference, 13-14 June, Manchester, UK

The Conference for
Software User Assistance
Professionals

Produced by:

   UA Europe

in association with:

Welinske

UA Europe 2013 in Manchester, UK

Photo of Hilton Manchester Deansgate in the Beetham Tower

Conference overview

UA Europe 2013 took place in the UK at the impressive Hilton Manchester Deansgate hotel
on June 13th - 14th, 2013 and was attended by delegates from 23 different countries throughout the world.

Topics included:
Finding the sweet spot between minimalism and fluff * Dynamic DITA delivery for Help * User assistance as product marketing * Collaborative authoring across global teams * Using a cognitive-based approach to user assistance * Localising screenshots * Migrating to wiki-based authoring * Enabling user comments and feedback * Making your content easier to find * Writing for re-use * Creating video tutorials for user assistance * HTML5 * How to answer users’ real questions * Indirect linking for componentised Help * Progressive disclosure * Agile user assistance

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UA Europe 2013 Speaker Index

Photograph of Priscilla Buckley
Priscilla
Buckley
Photograph of David Crystal
David
Crystal
Photograph of Chris Despopoulos
Chris
Despopoulos
Photograph of Matthew Ellison
Matthew
Ellison
Photograph of Ray Gallon
Ray
Gallon
Photograph of Dave Gash
Dave
Gash
Photograph of Leah Guren
Leah
Guren
Photograph of Brian Harris
Brian
Harris
Photograph of Tom Johnson
Tom
Johnson
Photograph of Rachel Johnston
Rachel
Johnston
Photograph of Bridget Khursheed
Bridget
Khursheed
Photograph of Colum McAndrew
Colum
McAndrew
Photograph of Dr Adrian Morse
Dr Adrian
Morse
Photograph of Rachel Potts
Rachel
Potts
Photograph of Dr Tony Self
Dr Tony
Self
Photograph of Dominic Smith
Dominic
Smith
Photograph of Dobrinka Stefanova
Dobrinka
Stefanova

 

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Priscilla Buckley (SAP)

Photograph of Priscilla Buckley

Based in the south of France, Priscilla is a Knowledge Architect at SAP. She came to SAP through its 2008 acquisition of Business Objects, whose documentation moved to DITA in 2006. As an SAP architect, Priscilla's primary project is the transition of the Technology & Innovation Platform group at SAP to the adoption of DITA in a single CMS environment.

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David Crystal

Photograph of David Crystal

David Crystal, OBE, FBA, FLSW is a linguist, academic and author. He was a researcher under Randolph Quirk between 1962 and 1963, working on the Survey of English Usage. Since then he has lectured at Bangor University and the University of Reading, and is currently an honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor.

David's many academic interests include English language learning and teaching, language on the Internet, language death, English style, Shakespeare, indexing, and lexicography. He is the Patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and honorary vice-president of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). He has also served as an important editor for Cambridge University Press.

David has published many books including The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language and Spell it out: the singlular story of English spelling. A complete list of David's books is available at www.davidcrystal.com.

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Chris Despopoulos (VMTurbo)

Photograph of Chris Despopoulos

Chris has been working in the technical communication field since before 1990. During this time he has worked as a technical writer, and as a tools developer creating plug-ins for Adobe FrameMaker. He is currently working for VMTurbo in the US from his home in Europe, and delivers freeware tools under the name CudSpan.

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Matthew Ellison (UA Europe)

Photograph of Matthew Ellison

Matthew has over 25 years of experience as a user assistance professional in the software industry. Much of this time was spent managing a team of writers and trainers at a UK-based consultancy company, before enjoying a period in the US as Director of the WritersUA) Conference.

Matthew has been a highly rated and respected speaker at conferences and training events throughout the world since 1997, and has covered a diverse range of topics from context-sensitive Help, to the Spice Girls! He now runs UA Europe, an independent UK-based training and consulting company that specialises in user assistance design and technology.

Matthew holds a B.Sc. in Electronic Engineering and a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education from Bristol University in the UK. In 2009 he was the winner of the prestigious Horace Hockley award that is presented annually by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC). In addition to his various consulting assignments for UA Europe, Matthew has been a visiting lecturer on the MA Technical Communication course at Portsmouth University. He also a certified instructor for Captivate, Flare, Help & Manual, and RoboHelp.

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Ray Gallon (Culturecom)

Photograph of Ray Gallon

Ray has been working in communications in one form or another for an entire lifetime. He is currently Owner/Consultant of Culturecom, an independent consultancy in user experience, information design and content strategy for software, and a principal in The Transformation Society, a new research and training group in Barcelona, Spain. Ray has over 20 years in technical communication, working as writer, information designer and specifier, content architect, UX designer, etc. with companies such as G.E. Health Care, Alcatel, and IBM, among others.

Prior to technical communication, he worked in radio as journalist and producer with CBC (Canada), NPR (USA), Deutsche Welle, WDR (Cologne, Germany), Radio Netherlands International, France Culture, etc. He was also program manager at WNYC-FM - New York Public Radio. Ray is a member of the STC Board of Directors and former STC France president. He is a frequent speaker on technical communications themes, as well as topics related to media and to new technologies. He has taught communication courses at New York University, Canadore College (North Bay, Ontario), New School (New York), CELSA (Paris), Université Paul Valéry (Montpellier, France), Université de Toulouse Le Mirail (France), Université Paris Diderot (France). Ray shares his life between the Languedoc region of France and the city of Barcelona, Spain.

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Dave Gash (HyperTrain dot Com)

Photograph of Dave Gash

Dave Gash is the owner of HyperTrain dot Com, a Southern California firm specialising in training and consulting for hypertext developers. A veteran software professional with over thirty years of development, documentation, and training experience, Dave holds degrees in Business and Computer Science, and is well known in the technical publications community as an interesting and engaging technical instructor. Dave is a popular speaker at User Assistance seminars and conferences in the US and around the world.

Session topics

Leah Guren (Cow TC)

Photograph of Leah Guren

Leah is the owner/operator of Cow TC. She has been active in the field of technical communication since 1980 as a writer, manager, Help author, and consultant. She now devotes her time to consulting and teaching courses and seminars in technical communication, primarily in Israel and Europe. Her clients include some of the top hi-tech companies internationally, including Intel, IBM, and Microsoft. Her usability work focuses heavily on cultural and linguistic issues, including her research on BDBL (bidirectional bilingual) web site content. Leah is an internationally-recognized speaker in the field of technical communication and is an Associate Fellow in STC (Society for Technical Communication).

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Brian Harris (Red Gate)

Photograph of Brian Harris

Brian is the Head of Technical Communications at Red Gate, a part-time role which he combines with his day job as a project manager in the DBA Tools Division. Brian has been a technical author for 14 years, initially producing hard-copy user guides to software he never even glimpsed until it was already completed, but now in an organisation where technical authors are embedded in development teams from day one and collaborate with designers and coders to build "ingeniously simple" applications. Brian co-presents a local radio show on Saturday mornings (Cambridge 105) and tweets prolifically (@harrisimo) about all kinds of rubbish — but rarely tech comms, to be honest.

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Tom Johnson (I'd Rather be Writing)

Photograph of Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson is a senior technical writer for a leading gamification company in California, USA. He writes a technical communication blog at Idratherbewriting.com, where he explores the latest trends, issues, and concepts in the field. He also records podcasts, interviewing technical writing luminaries around the world. And he is a WordPress blog consultant, offering development, design, and training of WordPress blogs. MindTouch named Tom the number one most influential technical communicator in 2011.

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Rachel Johnston (Mekon)

Photograph of Rachel Johnston

Rachel is a field consultant for Mekon Ltd. with over a decade in technical communications. Rachel originally trained as an archaeologist and has also worked as a market researcher and project manager. Since then she has worked in a variety of settings including internet security, enterprise resource planning and healthcare.

Rachel has been working with Mekon since 2010 and joined the team full-time in 2012. Her role centres on helping businesses to create content that can be managed efficiently, delivered effortlessly and that their customers find helpful.

She has a strong interest in usability and in her spare time helps to organise Northern UX — a UX discussion group that meets once a month in Manchester and Leeds.

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Bridget Khursheed (KAL)

Photograph of Bridget Khursheed

Bridget has worked in documentation, online content and elearning for twenty years. A pioneer of the intranet in the UK, she also managed the development of the first online course at the University of Oxford and taught on this course for many years. Bridget is currently a technical author for KAL, a global software company dedicated solely to multi-vendor ATM software.

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Colum McAndrew (Colum McAndrew Consulting)

Photograph of Colum McAndrew

Colum is a Senior Technical Author based in Guildford, UK. A member of the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (MISTC) and keen advocate of how Technical Communicators can learn from content strategy, usability and design. He maintains the popular RoboColum(n) technical authoring site, recognised as one of the leading industry blogs. Colum's website is www.cmcandrew.com.

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Dr Adrian Morse (Picis)

Photograph of Dr Adrian Morse

After being a physics lecturer at Manchester University, Adrian moved to technical writing and has now been doing this for some 15 years. During this time he has acquired considerable experience in documentation tools such as Flare, FrameMaker, Acrobat and Word. Adrian also speaks fluent Spanish and is familiar with localization tools and processes.

Adrian is now Documentation Manager at Picis, a US software company. Besides authoring guides, Adrian manages a team of writers based in Boston, Chicago and Barcelona. In recent years, he has written for the ISTC's Communicator journal and has presented a talk on VBA at the TCUK11 conference.

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Rachel Potts (3di)

Photograph of Rachel Potts

Rachel specialises in improving the customer experience that software and technology companies deliver. This involves working on both the interfaces between the company and its customers, and the interfaces between the various disciplines involved in creating and communicating about the products.

Rachel’s first degree, in philosophy and linguistics at the University of Glasgow, was followed by an MSc in Computing at the University of Essex. The natural next step was to become a technical author. An initial focus on designing information to support software customers quickly evolved into a broader involvement with all aspects of self-service customer care and improving the end-to-end customer experience. After 10 years in software and technology companies including Autonomy Systems and Red Gate Software, Rachel knows quite a lot about creating and managing support portals, improving findability of information, developing user-centric business processes, and improving software user interfaces.

Rachel advises on 3di Technical Communication projects and runs the 3di Software Usability division. In her "free" time, she volunteers as Marketing Manager for the ISTC.

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Dr Tony Self (HyperWrite)

Photograph of Dr Tony Self

Based in Melbourne, Australia, Dr Tony Self has over 30 years of experience as a technical communicator. For over 20 years, Tony has worked in the areas of online help systems, computer-based training, and XML documents. In 1993, he founded HyperWrite, a company providing training and consultancy in structured authoring, Help systems, DITA, and technology strategy. Tony completed his PhD in semantic mark-up languages in 2011, and his book The DITA Style Guide was published in the same year. He is a member of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee (and chair of the DITA Help Subcommittee), is an adjunct teaching fellow at Swinburne University, and is the Director of Training for TCTrainNet, a training initiative of tekom, the German professional association for technical communicators.

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Dominic Smith (Red Gate)

Photograph of Dominic Smith

Dominic is a Technical Author who found himself turned into a Project Manager in Red Gate’s .NET Developer Tools division, which develops productivity tools for other software developers. After becoming increasingly infuriated by the lack of usability and other shortcomings in Red Gate’s existing systems, Dominic worked with Brian Harris to manage the move to the new Support Center. Dominic has a PhD in Hispanic Studies and an MPhil in Corpus Linguistics, both from the University of Birmingham. He tweets about a wide range of topics (including ham radio, his hobby) as @dnas2.

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Dobrinka Stefanova (SAP Labs, Bulgaria)

Photograph of Dobrinka Stefanova

Dobrinka has been a technical writer for more than 13 years. She joined SAP eight years ago. For two and a half years, she has worked for one of the most innovative and fast-accelerating products by SAP — SAP HANA Cloud. She has extensive experience writing developer guides, video documentation, tutorials and blogs. She is involved with innovation initiatives within the SAP knowledge management organization, such as the definition of SAP help center, offline delivery concepts, content renewal, cloud product documentation, and so on.

Last year, Dobrinka delivered a presentation at the Evolution of Technical Communication conference, describing her experience as an author in the Cloud area. Dobrinka has a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Master's degree in Management Information Systems from the Sofia University. She works with academic staff on articles related to cloud computing and SAP HANA Cloud.

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UA Europe 2013 Session Index

On day 1 of the conference, one of the two optional session tracks focused on DITA.

Jump to list of sessions in DITA Track.

List of general sessions

List of sessions in DITA track

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General sessions

Make your content more findable when users browse and search

Tom Johnson

Users tend to search Help material when they have a specific question they're looking to answer. In contrast, users tend to browse Help material when they don't know exactly what they're looking for. Browsing often leads to better searching, and more searches often lead to better browsing, since the two activities inform each other. How can you make your content easier to find when users either search or browse for information? Answers to this question can span a range of best practices, from understanding search algorithms to including the right metadata, grouping similar topics together, adding related content, and more.

Delegates learned:

  • Why searches often fail in Help material
  • How to avoid overwhelming users with too many options
  • Why Help material often doesn't include the answers users need
  • Tips for organizing content based on principles of information architecture
  • How to more closely integrate search and browsing activities

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Creating video tutorials for user assistance

Tom Johnson

Next to Google, YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the web. The popularity of video, especially for how-to scenarios, suggests that it should play a more prominent role in user assistance. However, creating videos poses a number of challenges. Writing a conversational script, recording professional sound, showing crisp screen images, and integrating video into your online help can be tricky. Additionally, in agile environments, video tutorials often have a short shelf-life — remaining current only until the next release. When you create videos, therefore, you have to create them inexpensively and quickly. At the same time, you must maintain a high quality for the visual display and sound.

Delegates learned:

  • How to set up a microphone and recording equipment
  • How to write a conversational script that will work well in a three-minute video
  • How to get professional sounding voice without hiring a voiceover pro
  • How to incorporate learning techniques to increase the effectiveness of the videos
  • How to integrate video into user assistance in a way that complements written Help

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Spell it out: the singular story of English spelling

David Crystal

Book cover of Spell it outWhy is there an 'h' in ghost? William Caxton, inventor of the printing press and his Flemish employees are to blame: without a dictionary or style guide to hand in fifteenth century Bruges, the typesetters simply spelled it the way it sounded to their foreign ears, and it stuck. Seventy-five per cent of English spelling is regular but twenty-five per cent is complicated, and in his latest book Spell It Out, the UK's foremost linguistics expert David Crystal extends a helping hand to the confused and curious alike. He unearths the stories behind the rogue words that confound us, and explains why these peculiarities entered the mainstream, in an epic journey taking in sixth century monks, French and Latin upstarts, the Industrial Revolution and the Internet. By learning the history and the principles, Crystal shows how the spellings that break all the rules become easier to get right. In this session, David presented his personal highlights from the book.

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Context-agnostic writing for re-use

Dr Tony Self

In the field of technical communication, there is a migration (driven by the need for efficiency) from style-based, document-centric writing approaches to topic-oriented, modular authoring writing techniques. One of the challenges of working within a modular, structured, semantic authoring environment is the imperative to remove context from the writing to enable re-use. In a modular writing environment, a single source or repository of topical information modules are assembled into different publications for delivery in different reading formats. The ability to re-use the same content modules is especially important for organisations managing large documentation suites, such as motor vehicle manufacturers producing documents with sizable proportions of common content. This session argued that by adopting context-agnostic writing techniques for topic-based modular documentation, technical writers can improve content re-use and achieve greater efficiency through the technical documentation life cycle without significantly compromising quality.

Delegates learned:

  • About the principle of separation of content and form
  • How to extend the principle to also separate context
  • What context-agnostic techniques can be used
  • How removing context affects comprehension
  • What efficiencies can be gained by context-agnostic techniques

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Writing UA for mobile devices: best practice in a continuously evolving world

Rachel Johnston

The proliferation of mobile devices presents a triple challenge to technical communicators. We may be required to document the devices themselves, we may be required to document applications that run on one or more mobile platforms, and we more and more often need to deliver content that can be viewed on mobile devices. The way we interact with technology is changing all the time — and the rate of change shows no sign of slowing down. What does this mean for technical communicators?

In this presentation, Tom looked at these challenges in more detail and considered what best practice looks like through a series of real-life examples.

Delegates learned:

  • Why traditional information design may not work for mobile UA
  • Moving to mobile: how to develop your mobile strategy
  • Characteristics of good (and bad) mobile UA
  • How to make "ultraminimalism" work in real life

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Seldomly Asked Questions (SAQs)

Dr Tony Self

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have become so common in Help systems and support Websites that the initialism has entered the vernacular. But are FAQs more a convenience for authors than a useful tool for readers? Do FAQs encourage "maximalism" by making it easy for information to be dumped into an unstructured bucket? Are FAQs really frequently asked, or are they more often SAQs — Seldomly Asked Questions? In this presentation, Tony Self took a light-hearted approach to the topic, but discovered that there are serious questions that we need to ask ourselves.

Delegates learned:

  • When to use FAQs in your content
  • What type of questions are best to include
  • What type of questions you should avoid
  • About the balance between too much and too little information

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Going beyond tasks: creating a workflow path

Leah Guren

In this session, delegates learned to analyse users' needs beyond the basics. Even task-based Help systems fall short when they do not recognize how real users actually use a product by combining individual tasks into useful workflows. This workshop presentation showed how to identify typical multi-task user workflows for your product. This enables you to make the connections that turn "so-so" Help into superb user assistance.

Delegates learned:

  • How to analyse true documentation needs for your products
  • How to create scenario-based content
  • how to transition from features to tasks to workflows
  • How to make valuable connections between ideas

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Content editing: finding the sweet spot between minimalism and fluff

Leah Guren

Most people understand that online content has to be even less wordy and more streamlined than the content from typical user guides or manuals. But how much cutting is too much? Where do you cross the line from fluffy writing to uselessly terse topics? How do you find the balance? This practical and interactive workshop session answered these questions.

Delegates learned:

  • How to perform triage on information (the Minimalism Test)
  • How to conduct an iterative edit to remove non-essentials
  • How to find alternate options for offloading intermediate information
  • How to test your solutions

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Adopting a wiki-based authoring process

Brian Harris and Dominic Smith

The tech comms team at Red Gate maintain several hundred pages of content on their Support Center, which is supplemented by articles written by the Support team. For several years tech comms have wanted to update the structure of this content to address some usability failings and replace our authoring tool. Doing this only required us to: persuade the management team of the value of this project, get some advice on possible solutions, evaluate the new tool, run an off-site day to review use cases and redesign the structure of our content, train the authors, plan, migrate the hundreds of pages of old content into the new structure, run UX tests, work with support to develop a new workflow, automate some of the processes, plan, plan some more and attempt to stay sane throughout. The result launches in March 2013.

Delegates learned:

  • How to determine requirements and evaluate options for possible solutions
  • How to plan the project by breaking it down into sensible phases and get buy-in from senior management at each phase
  • How to reorganize all existing content into a consistently structured TOC
  • How to train the tech comms team to write in a new tool and migrate a sensible amount of historical existing content to a staging site
  • How to involve other parts of the organisation (dev ops, user experience and support) to deliver the migration

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Ensuring that we answer our users' real questions

Matthew Ellison

Many users of software choose to seek answers to their questions by using Google to search the Web rather than referring to the online Help provided. One of the key reasons for this is that many Help systems do not address the real-life problems and issues that matter most to users. So how do we find out what is important to our users, and what strategies should be use for including this information in our user assistance? This session answered these questions by covering a range of research methods; it also addressed the question of whether our role is changing from author to content curator.

Delegates learned:

  • About some of the most important potential weaknesses of Help systems
  • How to find out the real-life questions that users ask asking about your products
  • How to answers these questions in the best possible way
  • When (within the development/release life cycle) is the best time to write your user assistance

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Enabling user comments and feedback in user assistance

Matthew Ellison

With the Web becoming increasingly collaborative and social, this session looked at possibilities for building a community around your user assistance. Matthew discussed the advantages of enabling your users to provide feedback, and suggested ways in which these comments can be used to improve your user assistance. He also considered how implementing other social web techniques (such as comments, likes, and votes) can help to engage users with your user assistance. The session provided an update on the latest feedback and collaboration technology available from Adobe, MadCap Software, and other software vendors. These options included a number of free applications such as Disqus and IntenseDebate.

Delegates learned:

  • Simple and cost-effective techniques for enabling users to provide feedback on your user assistance
  • How the major authoring tool vendors implement feedback solutions
  • Whether the future of user assistance is collaborative and social
  • How to add social features to your user assistance

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Optimising global documentation development

Bridget Khursheed

KAL is a global software company dedicated solely to multi-vendor ATM software. KAL's product suite enables ATM hardware, software and services sourced from multiple vendors to work together perfectly. This allows banks including Citibank, UniCredit and China Construction Bank to adopt a best-of-breed strategy, reduce costs, increase functionality and provide an enhanced customer experience.

KAL is a continuously available company with offices in five different time zones and a multi-lingual workforce. KAL authors work to the same principle and have developed a quick-footed documentation development and delivery approach that never sleeps. However the documentation team is small and geographically disparate. This case study shared our insight into optimisation for global teams, best practices and promotion of collaboration without compromising independence.

Delegates learned:

  • Key strategies for working with disparate teams
  • The benefits of collaboration versus independence
  • A range of best practices
  • How to exploit novel communication methods

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Applying cognitive science to user assistance

Ray Gallon

The Transformation Society is a new research and training organization in Barcelona, Catalonia, that Ray founded together with Dr. Neus Lorenzo, specialist in international education. Over the last year, it has been working on applications of cognitive science to User Assistance. Our colleagues in professional training already use this — why aren't we doing it?

Start with the notion that users are learners. Users faced with urgent tasks have different learning needs than a participant in a training course, but they still need to learn.

In this presentation, Ray outlined some basic principles derived from cognitive science, and demonstrated how to apply them to user assistance to facilitate users' acquisition of mastery of software products. He also showed how we need to break down the separation of conceptual and procedural information, and how we can do this and still maintain integrity of structured writing systems like DITA.

Delegates learned:

  • Basic cognitive concepts: levels of competency, and how humans learn
  • How to apply these principles to user assistance
  • Why we need to break some long-held sacred rules of technical communication to improve effectiveness
  • How DITA and other structured writing tools can be adapted to these ideas and still maintain the advantages of structure

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User assistance is product marketing

Rachel Potts

Getting user assistance right for development platforms and tools is difficult. Creating effective marketing content for development platforms and tools is difficult. Caplin’s new website does both, with the same set of content.

In 2012, Caplin were repackaging their development platform product as a series of separate tools. At the same time, they were keen to address some known issues with the design and delivery of their current set of user assistance. Rachel worked with the Caplin team to design content that supports both of these goals; the result was Caplin’s new Developer website: www.caplin.com/developer

This case study described the process we went through to design the new set of content, and how the new set of user assistance works as product marketing.

Delegates learned:

  • How Caplin redesigned their user assistance
  • How user assistance can support marketing and sales processes
  • How to design user assistance that supports your customers’ purchasing journey
  • What else changes when user assistance is used as product mark

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

Colum McAndrew

You spend months developing your content. You deliver it and sit back waiting for your users to say how good it is. The trouble is how many of your users really know how to get the best from it. You may be surprised how little they know.

For example, do they:

  • Realise what content is there?
  • Know how best to find what they require?
  • Know how to navigate around the content?

In this presentation, delegates saw how training users about your content increases customer satisfaction and reduces support costs. For those who can't do this directly, Colum explained how to get others to do it on your behalf. Whichever method is used this is also a great way to get direct feedback on your content.

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Semi-automatic localization of screenshots

Dr Adrian Morse

Localizing screenshots by retaking them in the localized software is time consuming and sometimes impossible. For instance, it could require configuration at the code level (SQL, HL7 etc) or the technical writer may have modified the screenshot since taking it. In such cases, one usually resorts to a graphics editor to fake the localized screenshots. However, this can be even more time consuming.

Picis has developed a way to semi-automate the process of localizing screenshots. The process requires MadCap Capture and Microsoft Excel. (Additionally, an image editor like Photoshop or PaintShop makes things easier, but is not essential.) In this presentation, Adrian explained and demonstrated this process.

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Agile documentation: delivering in 2-week cycles

Dobrinka Stefanova

Working in Agile environment is one of the greatest challenges for technical writers nowadays. And what could be a more Agile environment than the Cloud? In this session, Dobrinka told delegates about the challenges that she and her coleagues met working for SAP HANA Cloud, and their strategy for success.

Every two weeks they deliver product updates reaching customers immediately. That is 24 regular documentation releases each year, not counting bug fixes and exceptional product updates. All content, reviews, quality checks, building and publishing needs to be finalized within the 2 week cycle. So, how do they do it? Dobrinka says working for the Cloud is like nothing she has ever done before.

In this case study presentation, Dobrinka described her experiences of this project and explained how they were able to achieve the two-week cycles.

Delegates learned:

  • Why would you want to deliver in 2-week cycles
  • What are the challenges for delivering in very short development cycles
  • What is their strategy for thriving in this hectic Agile mode (hint: DITA and constant innovation are involved)

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HTML5: not just for geeks any more

Dave Gash

HTML5 introductions, tutorials, and primers abound. These days you can't move a mouse without hitting a list of "must-use!" HTML5/CSS3 features. The problem is, many of the cool new features of HTML5—and their write-ups—are highly technical, intended for audio engineers, video producers, graphics artists, game designers, and other basement-dwellers. Doesn't HTML5 have features for regular writers? Yes it does, and we have 'em! In this session, Dave explored a selected set of semantic HTML5 tags and related CSS3 features that are actually relevant to real-world technical writers, examined some practical applications for them, and demonstrated them in action.

Delegates learned:

  • How semantic tags differ from standard tags
  • About the HTML5 elements that apply to technical writers
  • How and where to use them in web pages
  • How to use sets of tags for consistent results

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Sessions in DITA track

Dynamic DITA delivery for Help

Chris Despopoulos

Virtual infrastructures, the cloud, and web apps — these change the way applications are deployed and used. Instead of separate applications on the desktop, or isolated servers driving centralized web applications, server infrastructure can now shift in response to changing need. This give us distributed, dynamic application environments. To support these environments, user assistance must be distributed and dynamic in kind. This presentation showed on-line Help that dynamically reads raw DITA topics and converts them to HTML. This is one way to address the challenge, and it provides unique opportunities as well.

Delegates learned:

  • What dynamic Help is
  • How virtual infrastructure and web applications drive the need
  • Immediate advantages of DITA for small-scale, Agile projects
  • One Help delivery architecture that can put intelligence in each distributed documentation node
  • New UA opportunities this approach can offer

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Adding custom functions to your DITA project

Dave Gash

The DITA build process, while robust, is not specifically geared to individual output formats; that's the beauty of single-sourcing. But HTML output types are more flexible and extensible than others, and it would be great if we could add HTML-specific features in a DITA project. Well now we can! This session showed you how to modify the DITA build to recognize slightly-modified standard elements and process them into author-specific functions. It covered how to use DITA element IDs and classes to achieve attractive and useful HTML features like pop-up definitions, expander links, and dropdown paragraphs.

Delegates learned:

  • How the basic DITA build process works
  • How to customize standard DITA elements to trigger specific behaviour
  • How to modify the build process to recognise your customised elements
  • How to include and execute the functions in the HTML output

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Using indirect linking for componentised Help

Priscilla Buckley

Compared to ordinary hyperlinks, indirect linking provides a more powerful and flexible way of connecting topics within componentised or modular user assistance. From ALinks (introduced by Microsoft into Windows Help almost 20 years ago) to the keydef/keyref mechanism in DITA 1.2, indirect linking is supported by a wide range of user assistance tools and technologies.

This session described the key principles and concepts of indirect linking, and explained the benefits that it has provided to SAP. SAP’s Technology and Innovation Platform unit has been working with Ixiasoft to implement a cutting-edge solution for the challenge of increasingly complex documentation and shorter shipment cycles. It leverages the full benefits of the DITA 1.2 keydef/keyref mechanism by using them for virtually every link in our documentation. Relying on the flexibility of indirect linking and the use of logical IDs, this implementation of the Ixiasoft DITA CMS provides SAP with solid versioning without having to branch all content with each new release, as well as managed reuse across multiple structures and versions. The result is a scalable model that works for simple products, but also provides the flexibility to model more complex products and releases.

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DITA Questions and Answers (Q&A)

Panelists included:
Chris Despopoulos
Dave Gash

Moderated by Dr Tony Self

This is a unique opportunity for you to put your questions about DITA to a panel of experts, including Dr Tony Self who is a member of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee and chair of the DITA Help Subcommittee. Come prepared with a list of questions, problems, and issues with which to challenge the panel.

Delegates learned:

  • Everything they always wanted to know about DITA!

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Exhibition and Vendor Presentations at
UA Europe 2013

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Exhibiting companies

Click a logo to view that company's web site.

3di logo ADAPT Localization logo Adobe logo
Antidot logoDr.Explain logo Ezimar logo
ISTC logo ITR logo MadCap Software logo
Mekon logo Oxygen XML Editor translate plus logo

 

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Presentations by sponsors and exhibitors

The first day of main conference concluded with a series of presentations by sponsors and exhibitors.

The presentations were as follows:

MadCap Flare — What’s New in Version 9
(Mike Hamilton, VP of Product Evangelism, MadCap Software, Inc.)

Photo of Mike Hamilton, VP of Product Evangelism, MadCap SoftwareThis demonstration provided an overview of the new functionality and capabilities that have been added to MadCap Flare Version 9. Delegates saw the new advanced print support functionality including CMYK color space and crop mark support. You will also see the new synchronized code editor, the advanced conditional tag processing in Targets, and an industry first: full support for right to left language content creation, editing, and publishing.

In addition to new capabilities many existing Flare functions have been overhauled and improved including custom character support, updated equation editor, support for EPUB3, huge enhancements to Microsoft Word and FrameMaker import, and much much more...

Who's afraid of XML?
(George Bina, co-founder, Syncro Soft)

Photo of George Bina, Syncro SoftXML authoring is considered difficult by most people and many do not even want to consider it as an option. Things have changed a lot and XML authoring can be easier than working in a word-processing application.

George Bina is one of the founders of Syncro Soft, the company that develops oXygen XML Editor. He has more than 12 years experience in working with XML and related technologies including XML related projects, oXygen XML Editor and participation in open source projects, like oNVDL - an open source implementation of the NVDL standard project that is now merged into Jing and DITA-NG - a Relax NG implementation of DITA 1.2.

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Best practices for speeding up UA authoring with Dr.Explain
(Dennis Crane, Dr.Explain Team)

Photo of Dennis Crane, CEO, Indigo Byte SystemsWriting user documentation and help systems for software products has always been seen as a necessary but boring and lengthy process. Dennis wanted to change this state of affairs and make the process easy, fast and enthralling. Therefore, a team led by Dennis created a program for fast elaboration of user documentation – Dr.Explain. The principles of simplicity, visual explanations and clarity laid the foundation of this instrument. This presentation will demonstrate the techniques and secrets that allow for a significant reduction in the time investment required to create help and manuals, as well as making the process interesting and even enjoyable.

Enhanced User Assistance through dynamic delivery and collaboration
(Rik Page, Senior Account Manager, Mekon)

Photo of Rik Page, Senior Account Manager, MekonMoving from static, pre-defined documents to dynamic delivered content could be the game changer in customer experience that enables the all-important competitive advantage. Yet, many companies embarking on a DITA-based content strategy are simply streamlining the production of the same static document deliverables; be they print, PDF or HTML Help. This presentation showed dynamic delivery of user assistance and real-time collaboration being used in a "real-world" system.

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Creating adaptive content for multi-screen devices
(Vikram Verma, Product Manager, Adobe Systems)

Photo of Vikram Verma, Product Manager, Adobe SystemsIn this era of device explosion, when consumers are spending more time on smartphones and tablets than on PCs, it has become increasingly important for organisations 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, described how organisations are adapting to the multi-device era and will share the best practices to keep in mind while creating content for these devices. He also discussed some of the output formats relevant for these devices and showed how to publish your content and make it accessible to end-users.

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