Reviewing 2001 in Chicago, previewing 2002 in Nashville
With the next STC annual conference headed
into Nashville next May, interest was high at the May chapter meeting.
About 30 chapter members and visitorsa
large crowd in the memory of many in attendanceheard Chapter
President Rita Johnson and members Holly Quick and Laura Liles review
their favorite seminars from the 48th Annual Conference of the Society
for Technical Communication in Chicago.
It was our first meeting with Rita as chapter
president and Pat Cosky as program coordinator.
After networking and fellowship that were
aided by deli treats, soda, wine, and beer (everybody behaved),
the crowd settled in to hear Rita, Holly, and Laura recount their
most memorable seminars and conference sessions. (See the notes
from Holly and Laura notes below.)
Rita gave highlights of briefings she attended
with national officials (including both encouragement for and restrictions
on what we can do to promote the conference). She also described
meetings with representatives of the Chicago chapter in which she
gained some insights into the amount of work required of the chapter.
With most of the conference planning handled
at the national level, our chapter will primarily be involved in
(Posted June 28, 2001)
48th Annual STC Conference
Tanner Corporate Services
Session: William Horton: Say It in Pictures: Visual
Literacy for Business and Technical Communication
Recommended reference: Designing Web-Based Training
by William Horton
- Visuals should make words more understandable; this is
their purpose in technical and business documentation.
- To strengthen visual ability
- practice thinking visually;
for example, practice converting words to pictures
- find examples of good and
bad visual design. The library is a good place for reference
- take up a visual hobby like
- if you happen upon or think
of a good graphic idea, sketch it to help yourself remember
- practice critiquing graphics
- what works, what doesn't. How would you fix it, on budget
and on deadline
- Clichés work great in graphics.
- Color a very important element. Our eyes are not color-corrected,
and as a result red seems closer; blue farther away - use
red in foreground, blue in background
- Don't ever use red or human beings as background; the
brain says, these are important, pay attention, so they
fight with foreground images.
- People identify with cartoon characters. When pictures
of real people are used, an individual tends to notice what
makes the subject of the picture or photograph different
from him or her.
- Think in terms of using telling, not distracting, details.
- Keep the following in mind:
- Associations with color;
for example, red equals heat, financial loss, blood
- Red-green color blindness
- Visual acuity declines with
- We live in a multicultural
world. Be sensitive to all cultures; consider what will
communicate your ideas to people of different cultures.
Session: Dewitt Jones, Photographer - Opening Session
When you have vision and passion, commitment and discipline
Nature has been his greatest teacher.
Five key points:
1. Focus your vision-for example, National Geographic - their
mission is to show what's right with the world. A focused
vision is where the energy for transformation resides.
2. Get training and develop technique: vision without technique
3. Put yourself in the place of most potential.
4. Be open to possibilities.
5. Lose the fear of making mistakes, and don't stop with the
"right" answer-find the next right answer. Showed
us several examples of good photographs that led to great
photographs because he didn't stop, and instead remained open
to the flow, to the movement.
His motto: What will I be given today? Will I be open enough
to see it?
When Users Hate Help - What to Do
that the help is there.
Don't let the
tool's bells and whistles overwhelm or take over the content
and design of your information.
Training is invaluable
in teaching users how to use the documentation resources.
Make sure the
information you deliver is the right content for the audience.
content and don't spend too much time with the sharp look
in the help system should match the user's workflow and
not necessarily the screens.
are different as different points in the workflow.
need different types of information.
Present the best
information for what they are doing and not just what
they are seeing on the screen.
embedded help on the user interface. Encourage more information
in the interface.
does not mean what's on the screen.
Workflow is often
the context. For example: Create a folder, Add a folder,
Delete a folder.
The topics should
address common learning questions such as What is?, When?,
How?, What way?, etc.
Look at the workflow
and the roles and responsibilities of the users. At what
point do people need to learn the answers to the basic
questions? Where is the user in the workflow? What information
do they need at that point?
Consider what cognitive
processes are going on. What decisions are they having
to remember: A help system anticipated the users workflow
to the point that it provided the checklists and forms that
they would need to complete their job. The help system completely
integrated the information into their workflow.
Started on a New Project
Strategies for Condensing Online Text
Write in the inverted
Make the text scannable
Use more heads,
tables, and lists
text that repeats content in the heads
Don't begin heads
Link to nonessential
Don't repeat overview
information in step-by-step instructions
overview information in print only
Edit your text
Break up solid
blocks of text into shorter topics, shorter paragraphs,
or lists. Make the topics self-contained.
Each topic should
answer one question about one subject
Plan for white
Building an EPSS on a Small Budget
is an EPSS?
that provides information, guidance, tools, and more during
Used on the job.
on different levels
Allows for different
advice, and learning experiences.
Answers these questions
What is it?
How do I do it?
How/why did this
Show me an example
Let me try
Where am I?