April Program Events Reviews

By Cindy Pao, President, STC Houston

The chapter had two program activities in April, so I’m going to share my thoughts about them here.

April 12 Workshop

Joe Welinske presented two, 90 minute topics during the Saturday workshop:

  • Multi-screen Content Authoring
  • Introduction to Mobile User Assistance

In the first session, Efficient and Graceful Multi-Channel Content Authoring and Publishing, Joe talked about how we can write content once and display it in different ways on the many different devices available for displaying the content. Consider this: we have phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and even our TVs on which we can display information. However, the information we display on a phone should be considerably more brief than the information we display on a browser on our laptop. The solution to our display dilemma is the Cascading Style Sheet (css) and the Media Query. Creating a CSS for your display types and then using a media query allows you to display just the right amount of information for the interface.

In the second session, Mobile User Assistance, Joe addressed the four Cs for mobile user assistance: Contextual, Conforms, Conditional, and Concise. Helpful information should follow the four Cs. Further, he talked about how user assistance is being developed. Mobile user assistance is being built into the app, rather than into a separate window or app. Development teams use overlays and callouts to describe the different features of the app and how to use the app. To me, it sounds like developing user assistance brings the technical communicator and development team closer together in the development of the complete app.

Summary

This workshop helped me realize where and how I can provide user assistance to the new users of mobile apps at my company. Before the workshop, I didn’t think I needed to know about it, but I quickly realized that this attitude is not correct. When you hand out new devices, you will probably need to provide some kind of assistance, especially if your audience is older. Joe’s talks gave me the talking points I’ll need to intelligently discuss mobile user assistance with my IT department.

April 16 Program Meeting

At this special meeting, held at the University of Houston-Downtown, Michelle Moosally and Natalia Matveeva, both Associate Professors of Professional Writing, talked about Plain English and its connection to good technical communication.

First, Natalia talked about the history of the Plain English movement. From its beginning as a movement by the US government to its current iteration with the Plain Regulations Act of 2012, Plain English has strived for governmental agencies to communicate in a more effective way.

Next, Michelle talked about the principles of Plain English. It should not surprise us to know that good technical communication has long adhered to these principles. A few new things I learned are the following:

  • Address one person in your documentation, not a group.
  • Use contractions if they are more natural; however, don’t overuse them.
  • Use bulleted lists to avoid having multiple, one-sentence paragraphs.

Summary

This meeting helped me see where the Plain English movement fits in with the work I do. In fact, it should help me more easily do my job because I have to read through a lot of government documentation to develop the policies and procedures for my company. I now have the resources I need to produce these documents and defend my decisions in doing so.

If you need more information about the Plain English movement, this slide deck from Natalia Matveeva provides some excellent resources.

Program Planning

The 2013-2014 program year is winding down with only one more program meeting and the end-of-year celebration left. That means the chapter needs to start planning program meetings for 2014-2015.

Would you like to help with that? Do you have ideas for topics and speakers?

I hope your answer is YES, and I want you to let me know! Send an email to president@stc-houston.org or to volunteers@stc-houston.org.