Clear and to the Point

21 February, 2009

Know your audience

Filed under: technical communication — monado @ 12:00
Tags: ,

Even the most impressive offerings fail if they’re not what the user wants.

funny pictures of cats with captions
more funny cats

You can’t please everybody.

  • Some people want quiet; others want noise.
  • Some want plenty of features; others want simplicity.
  • Some want to multi-task; some want to concentrate.

You must find out who the majority of your users are and what they want. These days, you should be able to manage the content f a web site so that the same, or similar, information is filtered through different interfaces t suit two or three major audiences.

20 February, 2009

Connecting commercial e-mail to a web site and vice versa

I got what I thought might be a phishing e-mail message. I tried to forward it to the supposed originator. It bounced. Then I tok a look at the originator’s web site. After looking for a while, this is approximately what I sent to them.

Hello from a former customer. I’d like to alert you to a few things that I noticed about your communications.

[I’m using “techie quotes” throughout: no extra punctuation in code text-strings.]

The first is that I got the e-mail below and, finding that it pointed to a non-YourCompany address, suspected it of being part of a lure to get information. However, when I visited your Web site after my message bounced, I found that strange-user-name appears to be really your fulfillment address. You might want to make your return address in your public domain, even if messages are then rerouted to your fulfillment service.

Second, my post to your “phishing” account bounced because you don’t have one. Perhaps I should have tried again with “abuse” (which is a pretty standard address for reporting trouble) or even “root“. However, the people who are likely to forward suspected phony messages probably know what phishing is.

Third, you have no “Contact us” link on your home page. That is now part of expected home page layout. Instead, there’s a welter of FAQs, submission forms, and “If this, send to that” instructions scattered over several pages. And phishing wasn’t covered. So you need that link to a simple contact mechanism, with a visible e-mail address, on the home page. It can open a page that says, ‘This will get to us. For quicker response about different different subjects, send to these. [table of addresses]’ You can slip that page in front of your existing address pages with few changes. Then you can sort incoming general e-mail by keyword or get help-desk staff to route inquiries to the right group.

Regards, …

Am I being helpful or just arrogant?

17 February, 2009

Jacques Barzun, researcher and editor

Filed under: technical communication — monado @ 21:55
Tags: , , has a moderately detailed biography of Jacques Barzun. For seventy years, Barzun has written and edited over 30 books of critical and historical studies on a wide variety of subjects.

His book The Modern Researcher has an excellent chapter on writing well.

15 February, 2009

Web pages without HTML

Filed under: Web — monado @ 14:49

I didn’t realize this: Web browsers read text just fine. So if you have a simple bit of information to putt online, you do not have to code it into HTML. Just put up the text file.

Here’s an example, a running schedule.

Obviously, it’s very easy to update. You do need enough HTML to create the referring page, of course, and that means you must be able to insert links. But that isn’t difficult, especially when any blogging software will insert links for you. Then you can look at the HTML code and see how it’s done.

10 February, 2009

Visual information

Filed under: technical communication — monado @ 08:21

Yesterday, I got a review of a prototype procedures and of my analysis of a whole set of system procedures for HP-UX implementation, defining which procedures to do under which circumstances. The reviewer was not used to looking at a table of contents as an information structure, and asked for a diagram. I spent the rest of the day creating a large Visio diagram that embodied all the different procedures and decisions about what to do. And in the end, the analysis was clearer and easier to understand in its entirety.

9 February, 2009

Learning to use Acrobat

Filed under: education,online resources,Web — monado @ 00:50

I quite enjoyed the two days of courses last week put on by Front Runner Training. I was pleasantly surprised by how much information the instructor, Bruce McVicar, managed to convey. As a bonus for taking both courses, I received a copy of a quick start guide to Acrobat 8.

Acrobat Essentials I

This 1-day course teaches participants how to create and enhance PDF documents such as bookmarked pages, searches, annotations, document settings and page control. Participants will also learn how to create PDF documents from other programs such as Microsoft Word and apply security and authenticate PDFs.

Acrobat Essentials II

This 1-day course teaches participants how to create enhanced PDF documents with security using Acrobat Professional. Digital IDs, OCR conversion of scanned documents, Using Bates numbering, creating batch processes and using editing and redaction tools will be covered. Participants will also learn how to create Indexes for faster searching across multiple PDF files. Acrobat Distiller assists users in the creation of PDFs and application of security and other settings. PDF forms will be learned with examination of different types of user entry fields and methods of capturing information returned by others.

I also located a users’ resources on the Acrobat Web site. If you go to this link, you can find lots of help, including some online documentation:

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