Archive for the ‘Feedbacks’ Category

My First Video Movie on Technical Writing

November 29, 2010

Xtranormal.com is a website that gives an option to convert your text into a movie, that too free of cost(ok, ok)..You just need to choose your actors(max 2) and type your script, the site will take care of camera shots and recording. I have created a movie on the multiple roles that Technical Writers play in a development environment. Here is the link:

http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7859593

Note: You can embed the video directly by publishing it in YouTube.

User Assistance

October 4, 2010

One fine day I logged on to my payroll information site to check some information. I have to select a Date using a Calendar function. For example if I wanted to select 28th October 2010, I need to click several times to get the corresponding month and the date as 28th displayed on the screen.

Here is the catch. I am using Internet Explorer 7.0 version. That website has some script error resulting Calendar function didn’t pop-up. So I was clueless how to enter or select the date. Without selecting the date, I can’t process my request.

I called my colleague to get some idea on that. Yes, my assumption is correct; he too came across the same error. And the solution that he gave was too funny. “Close the session and log-on after an hour”.  🙂

Why can’t I directly type-in the date that I wish to..?

Enter Date:  __________  (in DD/mm/yy format for ex: 31/03/10)

See the above example; I have a User Assistance on the screen itself. Do I need a calendar function here..? I don’t think so.

Note: By the way after an hour, I was able to enter the date and processed my request.  🙂

Customer Feedback

August 5, 2010

 

Getting customers’ feedback is inevitable for any business. When it comes to documentation, majority of the clients (readers) are reluctant to give their feedback.  

Is that help system sounds jejune for them..? Are they really accessing it..?

Any Tech author will be curious to hear about his help system, Is that useful to the clients? Does the client get the answer for their queries..? Which page or topic is accessed by the people more frequently?  And so on.

One quick way to get the user access statistics is embedding a piece of HTML or JavaScript code in your site. Many online statistical tools are available like http://sitemeter.com or http://histats.com.

But if you want to get the feedback in a professional way, you can create a user feedback form or if you have RoboHelp Office Pro, you can use the logging and tracking feature – says Neil Perlin in his article on RoboHelp in the adobe.com.

He further adds that RoboHelp Office Pro has set of reports in seven categories of information:

  • Unanswered Questions: Questions that users’ type but to which they don’t find an answer.
  • Frequently Asked Questions: Questions that users ask most often about.
  • Areas Requiring Help: Areas that user ask questions about most often.
  • Frequently Viewed Content: Topics that users view most often.
  • Usage Statistics: Information about when users access the material. This might indicate a need for more server capacity in response to user complaints about slow access at 9 AM, for example.
  • Question Trends: The number of answered versus unanswered questions over time.
  • Errors: Various help system errors.

Quite interesting. By the way, recently I included “Rate this” widget in the site, just curious to hear from you.  🙂

Customer Experience Management (CEM)

July 29, 2010

 Scenario:

U.S.airways came across a unique problem. Though many of their customers logged in their site, checked for flights, fare etc didn’t proceed to book their tickets. In short, there is a huge dip in U.S.airways business. Web Metrics results were quite interesting.

Many of their customers entered the flight numbers wrongly, so the site was unable to process their request. Annoyed customers changed their mind and as a result no business for U.S.airways.

When they corrected this error (?), (maybe an auto-popup flight number field instead of a text box), U.S.airways found almost 100 percent rise in their business.

So unless you don’t know how your clients use your website, you can’t say that whatever you have developed is user-friendly. The feature which sounds simple for you may be annoying for the clients.

This is referred as Customer Experience Management (CEM). There are many vendors deploy CEM for their clients (of course not in free of cost).

I am planning to explore the web metrics and post few more in this space.

Anthropomorphism

March 9, 2010

 

No, I am not going to write about a zoology subject where my post heading may sound like that. When I checked with the WordWeb, anthropomorphism means the representation of objects (especially a god) as having human form or traits. To be more precise, anthropomorphism is attributing human characteristics or behavior to things that are not human.

Generally, technical writers have a great temptation to anthropomorphize to make difficult material easier for the reader to relate to.

An example:

If you click the Save As button, the database will store your data in the specified format.

This is fine. Some level of anthropomorphizing is acceptable. But let us consider the below phrase:

 If you click the Save As button, the database will behave as you requested.

This is a bit over-dosage of anthropomorphism.  🙂

Let us see one more example:

Correct Usage:

The speech recognition software accepts only the following words.

Incorrect Usage:

The speech recognition software is interested only in the following words.

When I came across Microsoft Style guide (MSTP), it says,

Sometimes the user interface or application programming interface of a feature is anthropomorphic. In dealing with wizards, assistants, guides, and other characters built into a program, you must let your professional judgment guide you in deciding how much the documentation should reinforce the anthropomorphism of the feature. But do not use words or phrases that convey intention or desire (such as refuses or wants or is interested in), intellect (thinks, knows, realizes), or emotion (likes).

Also, MSTP lists out some words to watch out for anthropomorphism. Here we go:

The following words may be acceptable in the right context, but they often signal inappropriate anthropomorphism. Some are appropriate only for programmers or information technology professionals. This list is not exhaustive. When in doubt, check your project style sheet.

  • answer
  • demand
  • realize
  • think
  • assume
  • interested in
  • recognize
  • understand
  • aware
  • know
  • refuse
  • want
  • behave
  • like
  • remember
  • decide
  • own
  • see

I believe now you have learned what anthropomorphism is and it’s spelling too (just like me)  🙂

Correlating the things

February 16, 2010

I am sorry for not updating this space for quite some time. I was really busy with little personal stuffs, frequent weekend travels, blah blahs. I really ask sorry to those thousands of this blog readers (just kidding).

I really cherish those moments when I watch television ads with my son (18 months old), who likes ads than cartoons. I really surprise on his skills the way he correlates real things with those comes on television. One fine day, I showed a bottle of Dettol hand washer kept near the wash basin when the same product ad appeared on the virtual screen. After a day, same ad came on the screen (of course they sponsor a lot of programs in different channels). He quickly pulled my hands and showed the same bottle kept aside. I was on a pleasant  surprise. He is able to recognize that product colour, shape and that ad sound of course.

Now as a Technical Writer, I am correlating this incident (anecdote) with the user experience. Rather than writing hundred pages user manual, it’s really a good idea to present them with video tutorials, and captivate demos to explore a particular feature of a product. The User will grasp the new things easily by these kinds of visuals than reading hundreds of pages. Of course, it’s human brain’s tendency to correlate things visually than reading or learning by themselves.

New Features in Captivate 4

November 25, 2009

As I mentioned in my earlier post on Captivate, I always enjoy using Captivate and admire its user-friendly features. Adobe has released Captivate 4 recently.

Here is the list of my favourite features:

  • Panning While Recording
  • Widgets
  • Project and Design Templates
  • Table of Contents
  • Single or Multiple SWF Output
  • Text-to-speech Captions
  • Captivate Reviewer
  • Photoshop Layer Support

To read a detailed review on Captivate 4, read Scott DeLoach’s article in http://writerua.com.

The most bothering drawback is Captivate 4 help system is not context-sensitive.

Technical Writer’s Role in UI Design

November 20, 2009

 

User Interface (UI) designing is no longer been a developers cup of tea nowadays. In most cases, it is the Technical Writer who becomes the first person to explore an application/product. As a result, a TW will be in a better person to tell his UI experience with the application/product in user point of view.

Being an individual contributor in my company, besides technical authoring, I almost wear multiple hats:

  • UI Design Advisor
  • Beta Tester
  • Product Trainer for the Beginners/Fresher.

Recently, I happen to test one application. Surprisingly, I was not a part of the team in the UI designing phase. An UI designer inside me came out while testing that application. Besides functionality testing, I started listing down UI design suggestions (Please note that they are only suggestions not advice). Look out the below image which bothered me a lot.

Bad UI Design

What is the necessity of placing a Close button below the Close icon already available by default..?

To be honest, for me it doesn’t makes any sense. Any UI should be designed keeping the User in mind no matter he is an advance or novice user. UI design should be in such a way that it should guide the user to explore the product without making him to press F1 often. You need not to design a colourful UI but definitely not a clumsy something like this:

Complex UI Design

      (Picture courtesy: Tom Johnson’s http://Idratherbewriting.com)

Documentation – Still a least cared area…?

November 9, 2009

 

I am a frequent visitor of Tom’s space. Last week when I was reading his post on wiki, few thoughts provoked me to update my space too. There is a unanimous belief among TWs’ is that Documentation is the least cared area and hardly very few project managers concern about the documentation while releasing a product. More or less it’s a fact too.

Though TWs’ took active participation in requirement analysis, UI designing, even QA testing, still documentation is considered as a grey area. I am really curious to know what will happen if any one ships their product without any documentation (includes both online and printed manuals)..? What will be the customer’s reaction on that product..?  It may sound funny or even weird, but I mean it.

Jeff has given a reply on my above comment at Tom’s space as follows:

I just read about a product that shipped without documentation – it’s called Fitbit, and in multiple reviews the reviewers complained that they couldn’t figure out how to use it and that there was no documentation.

See http://www.engadget.com/2009/10/15/fitbit-review/   for example.

Excerpt: “…shame that wasn’t in the manual. That’s because no manual comes with the thing, the implication being you just throw it on and go to town. Again that’s not quite the reality, especially when it comes to sleep.”

Thanks for this link Jeff.

On the other side of a coin, rarely we give feedbacks in our daily life. In any websites or help sections, there is a separate comment section for customer feedback.

Do we really like to drop a line over there..?

To be honest, I admit that I hardly give feedback. So, even I am not doing any justice to documentation, how could I expect a fair justice from others..? Hope I will change gradually.


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