TechWhirler Recap for January 23

Subject: TechWhirler Recap for January 23
From: INKtopia Admin <admin -at- inktopia -dot- net>
To: Techwr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 2011 16:12:05 -0500

TechWhirler Recap for January 23

This week’s update is supported by Platinum sponsor ComponentOne & their
Doc-To-Help Help Authoring Tool (

Weekly Summary

This week’s update is brought to you by some beer that’s a lot like Guinness
but wasn’t. However, as it turns out, drinking this pseudo Guinness still
required one to drink copious amounts of water before bedtime or their
writing would be

- take longer than anticipated
- and shorter than usual.

Let’ just say that this week’s post is short and succinct *by design.* Ahem,
*By Design* is the theme for TechWhirl this month. While we have covered
tools like personas and books to help people collaborate, this week we’ve
been looking into the outcomes of that design work with Ryan Minaker’s
piece, “So Easy Even a Child Can Do It – Building an Interface without
Documentation and us polling readers to see if they’re part of the design
process, or just the writer.

Ryan’s piece explores the financial obligations his young daughter commits
him to through an easy-to-purchase-stuff UI of the PlayStation 3. While he
and you probably applaud the ease of use, is it too easy to purchase? Most
online purchases normally need at least one additional password to make the
purchase, but not here. Click, click, and forget.

Easy is often good. Great examples of thing we want to be easy: using a
fire extinguisher, a toilet-paper dispenser and wine opener. However,
sometimes tougher is better. We probably want a more difficult UI for say,
a handgun, or software that allows us to be experts (any Flash experts out

Should all devices be über simple to use? – It depends. Sometimes we want
easy – understanding the braking system of a car – but sometimes we want
difficult – adult childproof caps on medicine. The thing that is a constant
through both waves of design and understanding is that it is always
evolving. Darwin would be proud at the how everything from software to
cleaning products has evolved.

The evolution almost always brings more functionality and either more or
less complexity. It seems that our role as technical communicators is to
ensure that all is understood, whether it’s descriptive guidance on the
latest professional software, or that simple note on the game controller,
which reads “take controller with you if using around a small child and you
leave the room.”

Social Media and the Chance to Follow TechWhirl:

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What You’re Talking About

*A quick *What you talkin’ ab’out* to our Tech Writers and their discussions
in our email discussion group <>:

· Julian Cantella started a timely discussion on “Choosing and managing
customer-facing terminology” with implications for usability, that presents
quite a different twist on what we usually think of as usability. Among the
other good posts, Gene Kim-Eng offered a common-sense set of guidelines
that’s worth a look.

· More from the usability front, this time from Richard Hamilton who is
looking for opinions on “Correctness vs. Usability” with regard to
capitalization and in light of context (a letter to parents). What do you
think about following rules versus enhancing understanding?

· Deanna Korth started looking for “Outlining tool recommendations” and
after good selection of advice including mind mapping software and Word’s
outlining function, discovered her own plug-in for Framemaker solution
called Enhance, and then found out it’s not supported in FM 10. More
Whirlers to the rescue, with recommendations on turning on Structure and
using Outlining in FM.
In Case You Missed it: This Week @ TechWhirl

· New: “So Easy Even a Child Can Do It--Building an Interface without
Documentation” by Ryan Minaker |

· Classic: “Biggest Lies Tech Writers Tell?” by Wade Nelson |

· Poll Question: Do you play a role in your organization’s product/user
experience design process? |
Upcoming Articles

· New: “Developing Mobile Help for Field Personnel” by Laura McNeilly

· New: “Tips and Tricks: Documenting a Constantly Changing UI” by Craig
Cardimon and Jacquie Samuels

· Classic: “Nobody Reads Manuals Do They?” by Geoff Hart

· Poll Question: Do you read the manuals for your mobile devices?


We want to send a very special “thank you” to our sponsors for working with
us on the design of their ads. Tip of the toga to you.

*Platinum A*: Adobe <>

*Platinum B: *Madcap<>,
, <>

*Gold*: EC Software, <>Vancouver Island
University <>, Society for Technical Communication
(STC) <>, <>

> You know, it’s good for you.

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