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helpstuff blog - User Assistance, Conferences, Help Authoring Tools, Speaking Engagements, STC

helpstuff blog

Helping end-users since 1981

Categories: User Assistance, Conferences, Help Authoring Tools, Speaking Engagements, STC

12/15/08

Permalink 08:02:19 am, Categories: User Assistance, 113 words   English (US)

Get User Interface Checklist before the price goes up!

In March 2008, my good friend Rhonda Bracey of CyberText presented Techniques for Reviewing a User Interface at the WritersUA Conference. (It was an awesome presentation and she was then asked to give it at AODC and ASTC (NSW).)

After she got back to the office, she set up a page on her website that includes the presentation (through SlideShare and in PDF), a voice recording of the presentation (MP3), handouts (PDF), and a five-page User Interface Checklist (PDF). She has also been offering the checklist in an editable Word version for $4.95USD.

In January, the price of the checklist goes up to $20USD. Get it now and take advantage of the price break!

11/24/08

Permalink 03:08:12 pm, Categories: User Assistance, 412 words   English (US)

Helping your customers ((i) Inspired by Seth Godin)

"How to answer the phone" was Seth Godin's blog entry today, and this one struck a nerve...not because we make customers go through nine prompts when they call us (we answer the phone if we're here and, amazingly enough, don't answer it when we're not here)...but because lately, it seems like every time I try to help someone out by answering a survey, I'm told after answering two questions that I'm not the target market.

As Seth says, "The only reason to answer the phone when a customer calls is to make the customer happy." In his case, after he finally made it through the nine prompts, he was told that he needed to call back after 10 am. Wouldn't it have been so much better to get that information first?

In my case, someone was researching information on a technical communication subject. No problem...I'm glad to help and I'll take your survey. I click the link and get...

  • Screen 1: Read the quick introduction and click Continue.
  • Screen 2: A qualifying question (think along the lines of "Do you have green eyes?").
  • Screen 3: A message ("You do not meet our qualifying criteria.").

I don't have a problem not meeting the criteria. What I do have a problem with is not being told what the criteria are ahead of time. If they had said that they only wanted green-eyed survey takers, I wouldn't have clicked the link.

Now maybe what they wanted to do is get everyone to take their survey so that they know how many non-green-eyed people had applied. (I have no way of knowing if they want to aggregate this information or not.) But if that was part of their goal, they could have asked a couple more questions...maybe "Would you consider wearing green contacts?" or "Does anyone in your house have green eyes?" They should have been able to come up with a few questions so that those of us with eyes of blue or brown or whatever aren't irritated.

Because right now? I am irritated that I was asked to help out when I wasn't the target market. And the next time this company posts a survey, I'll be less likely to help out, which means that they lose my input for future surveys that might apply to blue-eyed people.

I guess you could call this one of my new pet peeves. Do you have any? (We can cover grammar in another post if you'd like!)

10/02/08

Permalink 10:42:48 am, Categories: User Assistance, Help Authoring Tools, 214 words   English (US)

Author-it: Creating a list of topics in a book

Because Author-it is a component content management system, you'll find that you work with a lot of individual topic objects. If you're working on a book (aka a "project" in other applications), you can quickly create a list of topics in that book using the following procedure:

  1. Click Search.
  2. Under Object Type, select Topic Object.
  3. Under In Book, select the book name from the list.
  4. Click Find Now. The right pane will be populated with all topics used in the book.

    The list will not include any topics from books that are included in the book itself (when you're merging books) unless you tick Resolve sub-books.

  5. Select all topics in the right pane.
  6. Right-click and select Copy to Clipboard.
  7. Open Microsoft Excel (or other spreadsheet application). (You can use Word, but it comes in with the tabs...you’ll have to convert the content to a table.)
  8. Press CTRL+V.

Voila :-)

You can use the same technique to create a list of all topics in the library, or with 5.x, for topics in multiple books. (Click the ellipsis button next to In Book and select the books you want to use.) You can also use the same technique to create lists of any object type, such as index entries, graphics, hyperlinks, and so on.

09/29/08

Permalink 02:27:32 pm, Categories: User Assistance, Conferences, 193 words   English (US)

Use Godin's tips to fix your PowerPoint presentations

I've spoken at conferences, meetings, workshops, and more for years. And I would work really hard at putting together slides that would make sense when I wasn't there to answer questions. As a result, I've had some pretty slide-dense presentations. (You may have seen one or two. ;-))

As I was reading through Seth Godin's Triiibes site the other day, I found a post that said something like, "read what Seth has to say about PowerPoint." (The entire note I wrote was "Seth - PPT book".) Only it turns out that it's not a book. It's a blog post.

The post is titled Really Bad Powerpoint. (Yes, "Powerpoint". [sic]) And it's full of great information that for some reason I was just never able to wrap my brain around.

So for those of you planning on attending my upcoming DocTrain session, Four Features That Matter When Choosing a Help Authoring Tool, you'll be the first to see the results as I implement Seth's ideas. This will be fun :-)

(And if you want more information on Tribes, check out Seth's new book, coming soon: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, available from many online booksellers.)

09/08/08

Permalink 05:36:30 pm, Categories: Help Authoring Tools, 38 words   English (US)

Authoring tool survey now posted...

HAT-Matrix.com is sponsoring an authoring tool survey. A HATT member requested the survey, which will run through the end of September. The results will be posted in mid-October at HAT-Matrix.com.

Feel free to share the URL :-)

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