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Ragged Left November December

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					Ragged                              Lessons Learned from Web
                                    Applications and User Centered
   Left                             Design
                                    October Meeting Notes by Caitlin Gannon
                                    On October 10, 2007, Sarah Nelson and David Verba from Adaptive Path
                                    visited the Berkeley STC chapter to speak about what Ajax and Web 2.0
 The newsletter for the
                                    mean for user centered design and technical communication. In their highly
Berkeley Chapter of the
                                    interactive presentation they provided a number of websites as examples,
  Society for Technical             and then focused on how current Web 2.0/Ajax design approaches can
       Communication                improve the user experience.
                                    Sarah and David began the presentation with some definitions. “Ajax” and
                                    “Web 2.0” have become well-known buzzwords, but are often used loosely

   In this issue                    (for example, clients requesting a web design “that has Ajax and Web 2.0”).
                                    So what do these terms really mean?
                 Meeting notes:
                                    Web 2.0, as a term, was coined by Tim O’Reilly. In his influential article
      Lessons Learned from Web      “What Is Web 2.0”, written in September 2005, he delineated the differences
 Applications and User Centered     between the Web 1.0 model of web content (examples: Ofoto, Britannica,
              Design on page 1      content management systems) and the emerging technologies that were
 Asset-based Learning Content at
                                    enabling user-created content (Flickr, wikis, blogs, RSS). Web 2.0 refers to
             Autodesk on page 6     this participatory model of web application design.
                                    Ajax, coined by Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path, is a shorthand way of
                                    referring to “Asynchronous Java script and XML”. Today, however, Ajax
       Web Usability column on      refers less to the acronym and more to the set of technologies (XMLHttpRe-
                         page 8     quest, Java script, XML, DOM, CSS/XHTML) that in combination create a
                                    powerful new way of experiencing the web. Put simply, Ajax allows the
 Web Usability: Readability and
           visibility on page 8
                                    contents of a page to change locally, without requiring a trip to the server
                                    and a refresh of the page. Sarah and David used two travel websites as an
    How Suite It Is: Adobe show-    example, and On Travelocity, if you want to
 cases its new Technical Commu-     change the search criteria for a flight, after you click Search, you are taken to
         nication Suite on page 5   a page titled “We are searching for your flight”. A few minutes later you are
           Meetings on page 10      returned to the original page with the search results, a time-consuming and
                                    tedious process. Kayak, on the other hand, presents search criteria and avail-
          STC News on page 13       able flights all on one page. An adjustment to one of the search elements on
      Tips & Tidbits on page 13
                                    the left panel changes the list of flights on the right. No trip to the server, no
                                    intermediary page, no hassle. Adjusting the search criteria is easy and fast,
                                    and allows the user to focus on finding the best flight rather than on strug-
                                    gling with the interface.
                                    Sarah and David pointed out that these new developments in web applica-
                                    tions are part of the evolution of the web from the domain of a select tech-
                                    nical few to a canvas upon which many more people can express themselves.
                                    For example, ten years ago, setting up a personal website was a complicated
                                    process that involved a lot of technical knowledge. Today, it takes less than
                                    5 minutes to set up a blog on A new web publisher can spend
                                    her time developing content rather than learning web development. In a
                                    sense, the convergence of Web 2.0 and Ajax, and the increased bandwidth
      Volume 20, Number 6           available to support them, has enabled the web to more fully embody its
           Nov/Dec 2007

                                                                                               Continued on page 3
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            Secretary: Josh Berman                        13-16, 2007. In addition the STC sponsors many regional conferences, which feature                       the same sorts of programs, seminars, and workshops on a more intimate scale. STC
                                                          sponsors international and regional competitions in all aspects of technical commu-
Treasurer: Richard Mateosian, acting                      nication. STC Special Interest Groups (SIGs) bring together members with common
                      experiences and interests to share their skills and knowledge. STC SIGs include:
        Past-President: Joe Devney                        • Academic                                          • Lone Writer                       • AccessAbility                                     • Management
       Elections: Richard Mateosian                       • Canadian Issues                                   • Marketing Communication                       • Consulting and Independent Contracting            • Online
                                                          • Emerging Technologies                             • Policies and Procedures
     Recognition: Jessica Livingston                      • Environmental, Safety, and Health Communication   • Quality and Process Improvement                       • Illustrators and Visual Designers                 • Scientific Communication
       Employment: Caroline Scharf                        • Information Design and Architecture               • Single Sourcing                         • Instructional Design & Learning                   • Technical Editing
                                                          • International Technical Communication             • Usability & User Experience
Public Relations: Jessica Livingston                      STC sponsors research grants and scholarships in technical communication.
                                                          STC publishes the quarterly journal Technical Communication, the newsletter
      Arrangements: Jean Lundquist                        Intercom, and other periodicals, reference materials, manuals, anthologies,
      Volunteers: Richard Mateosian                       standards, and booklets.                       Formed in 1953, STC has today become the largest professional society in the world
            Education: Susan Jaeger                       dedicated to advancing the theory and practice of technical communication.              LOCAL    The six northern California chapters of STC conduct a variety of individual and joint
              Webmaster: Jim Dexter          ACTIVITIES
                                                          activities. See page 8 for contacts for these chapters. See page 4 for a list of other
                       local organizations in which STC members may be interested.
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November/December 2007
Ragged        initial promise of being a democratic plat-
              form for expressing ideas.
                                                               tation focused on how this combination of
                                                               technologies enables a renewed focus on the
   Left       To bring this all together, Sarah and David      user experience:
              then summarized that web applications            Discoverability – make finding things easy.
              based on Web 2.0 and/or Ajax allow people        With Ajax built into the design, users can see
              to:                                              the results of their choices immediately.
              Collaborate. With Google Docs, for example,      Searching through lengthy data sets is much
              more than one person can view or edit the        faster and less painful, and creating content
              same document. Applications like Basecamp        is more fun when the changes are immedi-
              keep a project team on track and sharing         ately obvious (for example, Yahoo! Page
              project details with one another. Google         Builder’s instant preview).
              Calendar can be shared with friends, so          Recoverability – prevent the user from
              everyone knows everyone else’s schedule.         making errors. Common Ajax interactions
              Remix. Many web applications provide an          on forms include suggesting commonly
              API (application programming interface),         chosen values (thereby preventing typing
              which makes it possible for developers (even     errors), suggesting other search terms rather
              those with moderate knowledge) to mix and        than just stating “you have no results”, and
              modify the application, often combining it       immediate feedback such as “password
              with other applications. The community           strength” indicators. Usability suffers when
              creates new applications that the developers     a person completes a long form only to
              may have never foreseen. For example,            receive a cryptic error message and blank
     plots the Chicago Police        view of the form.
              Department’s database of crime data on           Context – show where the user is in the
              Google Maps, transforming previously inac-       process. During the checkout process, the
              cessible statistics into a highly visual and     user needs to know where she is, how much
              interactive experience. The whole is truly       longer it’s going to take, and how to go back
              greater than the sum of its parts.               in the process to make changes. The shop-
              Co-create. Site visitors use the structure of    ping experience is much smoother when the
              social networking applications to create their   page doesn’t have to reload every time the
              own content. For example,            user wants to view an item’s details or add
              allows users to write short messages that can    something to her shopping cart.
              be shared with either their network or with      Feedback – with Ajax interactions, when a
              the public. Through the API, developers can      user updates an item, the old methods of
              create new versions of the application that      providing confirmation (alert boxes or page
              the product’s creators may never have            refreshes) need to be replaced. Users may not
              predicted, such as Twittervision (a mashup       understand that if the page doesn’t refresh,
              of Twitter messages and Google Maps).            their changes have still been saved. For
              Organize. A number of creative new web           example, when an item has been saved, the
              applications allow users to organize their       system can provide a subtle indication (“I got
              content in their own way., for        your message”) with a fading highlight on
              example, extracts data from your airline and     that item. You can also use progress bars to
              rental car confirmation emails and creates a     indicate that something is happening even
              master list of all your trips and itineraries.   though the page doesn’t change.
     creates a meta-address book by         The audience had a number of questions for
  November/   extracting data from your MySpace, email         Sarah and David, and discussion was lively.
   December   contacts, etc. As the amount of information      They presented a complex topic very
       2007   we have to manage grows, new applications        comprehensively, and the attendees left with
              spring up to help us manage it.                  plenty of concrete design ideas as well as a
        3     The final piece of Sarah and David’s presen-     list of sites to investigate.

                                                                                     Continued on next page
Ragged        Websites referenced in this article:
                                                                              President’s Notes
                                                                              by Richard Mateosian
              oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-                            I hope you enjoy whatever holidays you cele-
              web-20.html                                                     brate this season. An Indian technical writer
                                                                              IM-ed me to ask if Thanksgiving is a big
                                  festival here. I explained the to-grand-
              essays/archives/000385.php                                      mother's-house-we-go aspect of it. I'm not
              Caitlin Gannon is a user experience designer with 10 years of   sure he understood. I'm glad he didn't ask
              experience in website development, information architecture,    me to explain what kind of festival
              usability testing, and technical writing.                       Christmas is here.
                                                                              The weekend before Thanksgiving marked
              Sarah B. Nelson is a design strategist for
              Adaptive Path. She has ten years of experi-                     the end of the initial phase of this year's local
                                                                              technical communication competition,
              ence in interactive media and designing
                                                                              which we co-sponsored along with the other
              kiosks, mobile, and online experiences for
              clients in a variety of industries. Sarah has a                 Bay Area chapters. We will announce and
                                                                              display the winning entries at the Berkeley
              particular passion for practice development,
                                                                              Chapter's holiday party in January.
              conducting research into methods for
                                                                              Finishing the competition requires addi-
              improving collaboration, supporting
              creativity, and encouraging innovation.                         tional work -- mostly tracking down missing
                                                                              pieces and making everything shipshape. If
              David Verba is Director of Technology for                       you're interested in participating in that
              Adaptive Path. His many years of technical                      effort, please talk with Patrick Lufkin or me.
              leadership and architecture experience cover
              a broad range of projects and strategies.                       The Berkeley Chapter's holiday party will be
                                                                              on Wednesday, January 9, 2008, at the High-
              David brings 15 years of development expe-
                                                                              lands Country Club. In addition to exhib-
              rience with both open source and more tradi-
              tional technologies to Adaptive Path.                           iting competition winners, we will recognize
                                                                              Berkeley Chapter volunteers. This will be

              Other Organizations                                             our third holiday party at the country club.
                                                                              The two previous were great successes. As
              American Medical Writers Association (AMWA)                     usual, you can network with your fellow
              of Northern California. Meets periodically at                   communicators, eat good food, and even win
              various Bay Area locations.                    a raffle prize. Not all of the details are set, so
              American Society for Training and Development,                  watch our website for more information. The
              Mount Diablo Chapter. Meets monthly in Danville.                country club has ample but finite capacity.
                                           Sign up early to ensure your place.
              American Society of Indexers, Golden Gate                       STC renewal time is upon us. Go to the STC
              chapters.shtml#golden                                           website to renew your membership. $25.00
                                                                              of your renewal fee comes directly to our
              Association for Women in Computing, San
              Francisco Bay Area chapter —                    chapter, soon after you pay it. This money
                                                                              supports the programs and resources our
              International Association of Business
              Communicators, San Francisco chapter. A network                 chapter provides. If you appreciate what
              of professionals committed to improving the                     STC and our chapter do for you, you can
              effectiveness of organizations through strategic                show your approval by renewing early. If
              interactive and integrated business communication               you renew before the end of the year, it can
  November/   management —                                reduce your 2007 income taxes (check with
              National Writers Union (UAW). A labor union for                 your tax preparer to be sure). If you wait
              freelance writers of all genres. —                  until January, you won't get a tax benefit
        4                                                                     until you file your 2008 returns.
              Northern California Science Writers’ Association.
              Quarterly meetings & other events.
                                                                                                     Continued on next page
Ragged                                                        FrameMaker as a single sourcing tool,
                                                              getting to the desired results has not always
              How Suite It Is:
                                                              been easy, even with the help of third-party
                                                              tools such as WebWorks Publisher. With

              Adobe showcases its                             FrameMaker 8, Adobe appears to have
                                                              moved the program much closer to being a

              new Technical                                   true single-sourcing tool.
                                                              While FrameMaker continues its unrivaled
              Communication Suite                             support for long print documents, it also
                                                              includes enhanced functionality for
              by Patrick Lufkin                               versioning and single-sourcing. Support for
              For years Adobe Systems has been fending        different output formats has been improved
              off persistent rumors that FrameMaker and/      to lessen or eliminate the need for third-party
              or RoboHelp were going to be killed off or      add-ons. (WebWorks Publisher no longer
              abandoned. With its newly released Tech-        ships with the program.) The production of
              nical Communication Suite, Adobe will           channel-specific versions of documents
              surely put those rumors to rest.                through the use of output filters using
              On November 6th, Adobe showed off the           Boolean expressions and the use of attributes
                                                              to control conditional output has been
              new suite to a group of San Francisco Bay
              Area technical communicators. In a seminar
              given at Adobe’s San Francisco offices, R J     As with earlier versions, authors can choose
              Jacquez, the suite’s product evangelist,        to work in either a style-tagging mode or in a
              demonstrated that the suite can do just about   fully structured environment. FrameMaker 8
              anything that technical communicators—be        has been optimized for better support of
              they authors of print documents, producers      XML and now supports DITA’s topic-based
              of web based help, or designers of online       authoring as well. Adobe says the new
              training—might ask of it.                       version has moved away from reliance on
                                                              proprietary formats, and now conforms to
              The suite consists of FrameMaker 8, Robo-
              Help 7, Captivate 3, and Acrobat 3D Version     industry standards such as DITA and
                                                              FrameMaker 8 can also serve as the primary
              The suite also includes some handy ancillary
                                                              authoring tool for other parts of the suite,
              tools such as RoboScreen Capture, and Robo-
              Source Control, each features of RoboHelp.      especially RoboHelp, and can, in turn, use
                                                              files produced in Captivate and Acrobat 3D.
              All of the programs feature major improve-
              ments and have been tightly integrated to
              work together.                                  RoboHelp
              Adobe characterizes the suite as a “complete    RoboHelp, long the tool of choice for
              solution for authoring, managing, and           creating online help, has also received a
              publishing technical information and            number of enhancements, including
              instructional content in multiple languages     Unicode support which allows authoring in
              and formats,” and says the suite will allow     multiple languages. One can import content
              users to “create and maintain technical docu-   from many formats, including Adobe PDF,
              mentation, user assistance systems, knowl-      FrameMaker, HTML, XML, or Word, as well
              edge bases, simulations, software               as from such multimedia formats as SWF,
  November/   demonstrations, and other support and           AVI and MP3. It can generate output to
   December   training information.”                          almost any online format one might care to
       2007                                                   use.
              FrameMaker                                      If one chooses to author in FrameMaker,
        5     While Adobe has long worked to position
                                                              Robohelp can link to the FrameMaker files

                                                                                    Continued on next page
Ragged        and easily update its RoboHelp topics when
              the source files are updated.
                                                              tional price for students is $599.

   Left                                                       Patrick Lufkin is a longtime member of STC. He is currently
                                                              Membership Manager of the Management SIG and Chair of
              Captivate                                       the Kenneth M. Gordon Memorial Scholarship.

              The other primary authoring tool in the suite   November 14, 2007 Meeting Notes
              is Captivate, a tool for creating software

                                                              Asset-based Learning
              demonstrations, simulations, and scenario-
              based training. During a screen-recording

                                                              Content at Autodesk
              session, the program can capture mouse
              movements and other activity to quickly
              create interactive simulations. One can add     by Paul Sinasohn
              text descriptions, multimedia, various forms
              of interactivity, and even assessments with     Ray Eisenberg and David Sanchez, both
              scored user interaction.                        Senior Managers at Autodesk
                                                              (, talked about how
              Acrobat 3D                                      they manage the content development
                                                              process. Their group is currently part of the
              While all of the suite members look strong,     Customer Support organization.
              the wow factor award probably goes to           Autodesk localizes their products in 19
              Acrobat 3D, which has the ability to work       languages, and their self-paced learning is
              with 3D objects such as those produced by       localized in 10 languages. They create tech-
              Solid Modeler and other 3D CAD software.        nical training materials for most of their
              As Jacquez pointed out during the demon-        products, with product stakeholders
              stration, engineers are often loath to hand     providing priority content. Much of the
              their 3D model files to technical communica-    subsequent content processing is handled by
              tors, for fear they will get messed up.         outside vendors of all sizes—from single
              Acrobat 3D obviates the problem by              practitioners to large companies.
              allowing communicators to import 2D and
              3D designs in PDF and then manipulate the       Autodesk provides specifications to their
              PDFs without danger to the original files.      vendors, adjusting the information
              One can add materials (skins), create           depending on the vendor. They have found
              exploded views, edit lighting, and even add     that some offshore development companies
              embedded audio and video. One can save          need very detailed spreadsheets of content
              the results as 3D objects—which can be          items, while others can work with less
              rotated and manipulated by the viewer—or        specific information.
              as 2D images. While creating 3D PDFs            Autodesk manages their content internally,
              requires Acrobat 3D, the resulting PDFs can     using a content management system (CMS),
              be used inside of FrameMaker and Robo-          OutStart Evolution. See later in this article
              Help and can be read by anyone using a          for more information about their tools.
              regular PDF reader.                             Ray's group uses Project Managers, Tech-
                                                              nical Editors, and Localization experts. They
              Pricing                                         set the framework for the content and
                                                              manage the vendors. A separate group in-
              For those interested, trial versions of the
                                                              house does the production, final processing,
              suite are available at https://
                                                              and release management.
  November/                                                   When they are developing materials for a
   December   Adobe has priced the suite at $1500 for those
                                                              completely new product, they rely on SMEs,
       2007   who do not own earlier versions of any of the
                                                              including software developers, who create
              constituent products. However, current
                                                              video files using the software.
        6     owners of any version of FrameMaker or
              RoboHelp can upgrade for $999. The educa-       In order to accomplish their wide-ranging
Ragged        mission, Ray's group uses a Learning Object
              structure: they classify information into 5
                                                                source; their online content has between
                                                                120% and 140% of the topics included in their
   Left       categories for training purposes inside a         printed manuals. But everything does come
              training object:                                  out of one database. Building content in a
                   • Concepts                                   database allows them to customize content
                   • Facts                                      delivery based on a user's profile—even on
                   • Principles                                 the fly.
                   • Procedures and Processes
                                                                They have had to address the problems
                   • Projects (Exercises)
                                                                related to changes in functionality—at what
              These items are book-ended by a subject           point does a new content object get created,
              overview at the start and a summary at the        rather than an existing one being edited?
              end. The student performs a pre-assessment        This is a classic Content Management System
              and a post-assessment on each learning            issue.
                                                                Dave Sanchez took over the presentation to
              Ray and his group have found, over the            discuss the actual system used.
              years, that the Objectives and the Assess-
                                                                Their Content Development system is thin-
              ments are absolutely critical to the learning
              process. Their system is loosely based on         client/web-based, run using OutStart Evolu-
                                                                tion, with a prescribed data model. The base
              Information Mapping (IM), and Ray encour-
                                                                task is to chunk and tag the content. This, of
              ages everyone to learn something about it.
                                                                course, is made more complex by their
              Other favorite references include Robert
              Mager’s Preparing Instructional Objectives and    decentralized development model. Evolu-
                                                                tion allows them to test and edit content as
              Ruth Clark's Developing Technical Training.
                                                                well as develop it.
              Clark's book, in particular, marries the
              concepts of IM to those of Instructional          Database elements are complied into assem-
              Design.                                           blies. An Assembly at Autodesk is just a
                                                                collection of learning objects. The elements
              They have not found a panacea for creating
                                                                in them can be text, graphics, or just about
              assessment questions; it is something of an
              art, and few have mastered it. They must be       anything else that can be stored electroni-
                                                                cally. Evolution does not, however, track
              especially careful when creating certification
                                                                slide presentations at this time. New assem-
              questions, as there are many pitfalls. In
              response to a question, Ray mentioned that        blies are linked to existing ones (new
                                                                versions, for example). An assembly can use
              certification localization has not been a focus
                                                                elements created or managed by different
              for Autodesk to date.
                                                                content managers, even in non-learning
              The bottom line is that assessment questions      systems. Other Autodesk data repositories
              must relate to the Learning Object objectives!    are tagged and indexed as their items appear
              While their design specification is rigorous,     in Knowledge Management system searches.
              it is flexible—not every learning object          Autodesk deliberately delivers content
              requires every type of item; the contents will    customized to the individual learner. The
              change. However, in their system (as in all       business unit responsible for the software
              IM-based content development), titles are         product creates profiles that can include
              critical: Gerunds are required except where       subscription or payment requirements,
              they make no sense (mostly for the Objective      topics needed for the learner, and products
              and Summary items).                               available to the learner.
  November/   They enforce a writing structure that allows      Autodesk does massive amounts of content
   December   content to be re-used while still making          mapping, as you might guess—new vendors
       2007   sense. For example, connecting statements         and writers must be edited very carefully.
              (“As you previously learned…”) are often          Fortunately, tagging has been automated to a
        7     left out, as they would not necessarily apply     great extent.
              to e-learning projects. They do not single-
Ragged        Determining the effectiveness of a particular
              assembly is done through the standard                                Web Usability column
   Left       assessments, such as the Kirkpatrick levels
              (look them up!). To date, the assessment data
              has not been formally circled back to the                            Readability and
              Content Development group, but it will be in
              the future. Right now, there is some ad hoc                          visibility
              and voluntary usability testing being done                           by Eric Hughes, Managing Director,
              by volunteers in a lab environment.                                  Simplexity, LLC
              In their current system, content cannot be                           In our previous columns, we discussed the
              tagged with instructor notes, but this is                            process for ensuring quality navigation, and
              mostly a bandwidth issue. When dynamic                               how to keep a web presence appropriately
              user profiles are in widespread use, this will                       simple and consistent for your audiences. In
              definitely be required.                                              this column, we'll discuss readability and
              Dave demonstrated their LCMS portal—it is                            visibility on the web—is what is supposed to
              a standard, permissions-based system using                           be clickable really clickable? Is content easily
              tabs—the tabs you see depend on what                                 scanned? Are headers used well? Is content
              rights you have been given regarding                                 written and presented appropriately?
              elements in the database. Tracking content                           Because publishing on the web is so incred-
              states—submission, review, edit, release—                            ibly easy to do, we have lost track of what it
              are all done in the LCMS tool. All review                            takes to do quality content creation and
              comments are collated at the element level.                          editing. Many have rationalized that by
              Ray and Dave have put years of work into                             preaching timeliness over quality. Clearly,
              this system and the procedures and                                   there are circumstances where that stance is
              processes affiliated with it—each has been                           appropriate, but in most cases, those who
              with Autodesk between 8 and 10 years. But                            publish to the web need to have a tighter
              their work has paid off, and will continue to                        reign on what gets read and experienced.
              do so, making it easy for learners to under-                         As is true with everything on the web, if you
              stand the very complex and powerful soft-                            know your audience, you can create content
              ware they must use.                                                  that is relevant and easy to digest, and still
              Paul Sinasohn an Instructional Designer and Technical                meet timeliness goals. Ask yourself these
              Trainer with ten years training experience and 15 years              questions:
              business background in multiple industries and different
              disciplines. He is currently looking for a new full-time position.
              Paul is also a professional singer specializing in Vaudeville        Is your content written at
                                                                                   the right level for your
              and comic songs.

                                                                                   Here is a trick you can try (this is called the
                                                                                   Gunning Fog index, but there are others):
                                                                                   1. Select a sample of at least 100 words.
                Other STC chapters                                                    Count the number of sentences and
                in Northern California                                                divide the total number of words in the
                                                                                      sample by the number of sentences to
                East Bay:
                                                                                      get the average sentence length (ASL).
                North Bay:                                    2. Count the number of words with three
       2007     Sacramento:                                     or more syllables in the sample, but
                                                                                      don't include proper nouns, hyphenated
                San Francisco:
        8       Silicon Valley:
                                                                                      words, two-syllable verbs made into
                                                                                      three with -es and -ed.
Ragged        3. Divide this number by the number of
                 words in the sample. For example, 10
                                                                have been presented in different sizes or
                                                                styles of text, not just run together. The page
   Left          long words divided by 100 words gives          title should be Courses, then there should be
                 you 10 percent difficult words (PDW).          sections for Upcoming Classes and Online
              4. To get the fog index, add the average          Classes. The site also used these headers as
                 sentence length and the percent difficult      breadcrumbs, but it wasn't clear that the text
                 words and multiply this by 0.4. The for-       was clickable unless the text was moused
                 mula looks like this: (ASL + PDW)x0.4 =        over. Breadcrumbs, if used, should distinctly
                 Grade Level.                                   separate from headers and be formatted like
              This is the number of years of schooling an
              English-as-a-first-language reader would          Courses > Upcoming Classes > Online.
              need to easily understand the selected
              sample.                                           Is it clear what text (or
              Are your URLs and headers                         other content) is clickable?
                                                                Underlined text should be clickable. Don't
              short, consistent and                             use it unless you are indicating that clicking
              frequent?                                         it will take you someplace else. Except in
                                                                places where it is obvious that text is naviga-
              People scan information on the web. They          tional, don't make people mouse over the
              expect to be able to find what they are           text or object to figure out that it is clickable
              looking for quickly and accurately. Put time      (logos in headers are exempt from this rule,
              into what your headers say. Make them             as it is standard that clicking on a header
              complete and clear—and don't just use the         logo will take you back to a home page).
              first thing that comes into your head. Be         Know what your visitors want and put it
              careful about the hierarchy of headers that       where they can find it.
              you use—make sure it is obvious what a sub        Make sure that buttons look like buttons.
              header is. Viewers often see headings out of      Don't get carried away with how creative
              context, such as in the results of a search       you can make a button look. If it says:
              engine. For example, if you're selling used       “Submit”, sure, people will always know
              guitars, don't use Fender at the top of one       what to do no matter what it looks like. But if
              page and Looking for a Gibson? at the top of      it says: “Search” or “Filter” or “Clear”, it is
              another. Instead, put Used Fender Electric        usually not so obvious.
              Guitars on the first page and Used Gibson
              Acoustic Guitars on the next. These headings
              are simple, complete, and consistent.
                                                                Are your paragraphs short
              URLs should be as simple as possible. This is     and to the point?
              getting difficult with some technologies, but
                                                                Scanning content is the norm on the web.
              don't lose track of how hard it is to copy an
                                                                People generally don't read in detail until
              URL that runs off the side of the location bar,
                                                                they find something of interest. Make it easy
              or that splits into two lines in an email
                                                                for them to find that content they need, then
                                                                give them detail.
              We recently reviewed a site that mixed
                                                                It used to be that multiple vertical columns
              breadcrumbs and headings. A typical
                                                                were the norm, and you can still find that
              heading looked something like this:
  November/                                                     used throughout the web. Unfortunately,
   December      Courses/Upcoming Classes/Online.               multiple columns has given way to tremen-
              It was clear that the text represented a          dous clutter on home pages. Too much
                                                                choice invariably leads to no choice at all.
        9     header, but there should have been a clear
              hierarchy with the headers, and they should       Many “web 2.0” sites have begun to use hori-
                                                                zontal columns, and that seems to work even
Ragged        better than vertical columns, since it leads to
              a more organized look.                            Meetings
   Left                                                         Our chapter holds a dinner meeting the
              NOTE: Please don't ever use all upper case        second Wednesday of each month. See
              letters (except occasionally in headers). It is   Berkeley STC Meeting Location and Directions
              hard to read and sometimes people will think      on page 12.
              YOU ARE YELLING AT THEM.
                                                                Upcoming Meetings
              Is your home page focused
                                                                Single-sourcing through a CMS
              and uncluttered?                                  for a Small Writing Team,
              Help your visitors find what they need by         using AuthorIT
              understanding why they came to your site.         by Chris Muntzer
              Tell them right away who you are, what you
                                                                Wednesday, December 12, 2007, 6-9:30pm
              do, and why they should do business with or
                                                                  Highlands Country Club
              contact you. Try to keep your home page
                                                                  110 Hiller Drive, Oakland, California
              focused enough so that people don't have to
              scroll down to see anything. If you have that     Chris Muntzer leads a small team of writers
              as a goal, you will avoid the tendency to         who produce both hardcopy and Help from
              clutter.                                          a single source CMS (content management
                                                                system) using AuthorIT. Chris will share his
              Don't use busy backgrounds, they just
                                                                expertise and discuss how to:
              distract from your message. For those of you
                                                                     • Set up and maintain consistency with
              struggling with how to present information
                                                                       multiple writers when single
              on mobile devices, this is also very impor-
                                                                       sourcing through a CMS
              tant. As of this writing (November 2007),              • Analyze a project to break it down
              about 15% of web users still use 800 x 600               into reusable chunks of information
              screens. Don't make your site impossible for           • Develop a localization strategy that
              them to read.                                            synchronizes changes in the source
                                                                       and translated projects
              Is your navigation
              persistent?                                       Chris Muntzer was born in and raised in the
              We have noticed a tendency recently to only       UK where he trained as an electrical engi-
              put secondary navigation into mouse-over          neer. In 1978, he moved to the USA and has
              menus. This makes it very difficult for           since become a US citizen. As an engineer, he
              viewers to scan what they want to do next. It     became increasingly interested in technical
              is best to keep your navigational options         documentation and, seven years ago made a
              readily available.                                career change to become a full-time technical
              Readability and visibility are incredibly
              important to a successful web experience,         As a technical writer, he has explored the
              and incredibly hard to do well. It takes plan-    practical implementation of single-sourcing
              ning, audience analysis and quality informa-      and content management systems (CMS).
              tion architecture work to be successful in this   For several years he has led a small team of
              arena.                                            writers, creating documentation for several
  November/                                                     products out of an AuthorIT single-source

Ragged        Berkeley Chapter Holiday                            Speaker
   Left       Party                                               Kim Rathbun is currently a senior technical
              Wednesday, January 9, 2008, 6-9:30pm                writer at LeapFrog Inc. She has over 25 years
                Highlands Country Club                            experience working in the computer
                110 Hiller Drive, Oakland, California             industry as an engineer, trainer, and tech-
                                                                  nical writer. As a writer, she has designed
              Program                                             and written user manuals, online help,
              Join us for good company, good food, and to         training materials, and e-learning modules
              hear (and see) the results of the 2007-2008         for a variety of industries. At LeapFrog Inc.,
              Northern California Technical Communica-            her current focus is developing user manuals
              tion Competition. The entries will be on            and online help for their Eclipse-based appli-
              hand for viewing.                                   cations.

                                                                  Meeting/Dinner Prices
              Creating Online Help for                            STC Members Meeting and Dinner
              Eclipse: A Case Study                                  $21.00 per person at door
              by Kim Rathbun                                         $18.00 if reserved on our Chapter's Web-
                                                                     site by the day before the meeting
              Wednesday, February 13, 2007, 6-9:30pm
                Highlands Country Club                            Students Meeting and Dinner
                110 Hiller Drive, Oakland, California                $18.00 per person at door
                                                                     $15.00 if reserved on our Chapter's Web-
              Program                                                site by the day before the meeting
              Eclipse, as a platform, is widely adopted for       Non-STC Member Meeting and Dinner
              building development environments                     $24.00 per person at door
              because it offers a universal platform for            $21.00 if reserved on our Chapter's Web-
              tools integration. LeapFrog has adopted               site by the day before the meeting
              Eclipse to develop its software development         Meeting-only prices (reserved and at door
              kits and internal applications. Because the         are the same):
              Eclipse platform is a plug-in environment, it           STC Member $12.00
              presents some addition challenges when                  Student $10.00
              developing online help.                                 Non-STC Member $15.00
              This presentation focuses on how LeapFrog           Special cost notes:
              has adapted its single sourcing environment         • All members of the San Francisco Chapter
              using FrameMaker and WebWorks ePub-                   of the IABC are welcome to register for
              lisher to produce online help for Eclipse             Berkeley STC General Meetings at the
              applications. Kim will explain the process            member price ($18 dinner/$12 without
              involved in taking HTML topics generated              dinner) by midnight on the day before the
              from ePublisher—or any other source—and               meeting.
              making them work within an Eclipse online           • Nonmembers are always welcome to STC
              help plug-in. This involves creating a table of       meetings at the non-member rates.
              contents file, a context sensitive help file, and
              then testing them within the Eclipse environ-
       2007   ment.

Ragged        Meeting Agenda                                       From Walnut Creek
              6:00 Check-in, networking, and conversa-
   Left            tion.
                                                                   Take Highway 24 Westbound through the
                                                                   Caldecott Tunnel. Stay in the right-hand
              6:30 Dinner.                                         lane, taking the first exit after the tunnel
              7:15 Chapter business and announce-                  ends, the Tunnel Road exit, going towards
                   ments. Anyone can announce jobs                 Berkeley. Follow Tunnel Road to the
                   that they know about.*                          complex intersection and stop light, at
              7:30 Formal program. Usually we have a               Tunnel Drive, Hiller Drive, and Highway 13.
                   speaker or panel of speakers on a               Veer to the right, and continue halfway up
                   topic related to the business or tech-          the hill on Hiller Drive. Highlands Country
                   nology of technical communication.              Club will be on the right-hand side of the
              8:30 Conversation, offline questions for             street.
                   the speaker, follow-up on job
                   announcements                                   From I-80 and Berkeley
              9:00 Clear the room. Move conversations              Take Ashby Avenue to the Highway 13 exit.
                   to the sidewalk.                                Ashby becomes Tunnel Road at the Clare-
              * Attendees, please announce open positions, and     mont Hotel. Continue on Tunnel Road
              bring job listings for distribution.
                                                                   (through the split-level section) to the stop-
              Recruiters are welcome to attend meetings, place
              literature on a designated table, and talk with      light just before the Highway 24 over-
              attendees one-on-one during the informal parts of    crossing. Remain in the left lane and make a
              the meeting. We ask them not to announce             sharp left U-turn around the Firestorm
              specific jobs during the formal announcement
              period, but they are free to stand up and identify   Memorial Garden, on to Hiller Drive.
              themselves.                                          Continue halfway up the hill. Highlands
              Similarly, we ask anyone else with commercial        Country Club will be on the right-hand side
              announcements to confine themselves to calling       of the street.
              attention to the availability of literature on the
              designated table.                                    From Hayward
              Berkeley STC Meeting                                 Take I-580 Westbound to Highway 13 north.
                                                                   Continue on Highway 13 past the over-
              Location and Directions                              crossing of Highway 24. At the stoplight,
                                                                   turn right, then left, onto Hiller Drive.
              Highlands Country Club                               Continue halfway up the hill. Highlands
              110 Hiller Drive                                     Country Club will be on the right-hand side
              Oakland, California                                  of the street.
              Information at
                                                                   Please park on the street. The club's parking
              By Car                                               lot is for members only.
              From San Francisco                                   Public Transit
              Cross the Bay Bridge to I-580 Eastbound.
              Remain in the right lane, until Highway 24           Prefer to take BART? The Rockridge station
              Eastbound (toward Berkeley and Walnut                is closest. Send email to president@stc-
              Creek). Continue eastbound until the Tunnel          berkeley.orgto ask about transportation
              Road off-ramp. Exit will loop around to the          from BART to the meeting.
  November/   west, crossing back over Highway 24. Turn            AC Transit bus E from SF via MacArthur
   December   left at the stop sign. Follow Tunnel Road/           then Rockridge takes you as far as Tunnel
       2007   Caldecott Lane to traffic signal. Veer to the        Road & Roble Road, with a half mile walk
              right, and follow Hiller Drive halfway up the        uphill on Hiller Drive to the Hillside
      12      hill. Highlands Country Club will be on the          Country Club.
              right-hand side of the street.
Ragged        STC News                                          Where is Credit Due?
   Left                                                         Plagiarism and the Web
              Chapter News                                      Are you confused or concerned about how
                                                                copyright applies to what you put on the
              Leadership Positions Available                    Internet or intranet? See the Nolo site and its
                                                                10 tips (
              We are looking to fill several leadership posi-   objectID/8CD796F2-9770-4ECA-
              tions! Contact Richard Mateosian if you are       B8F2B4F66DB170F1/310/266/ART/).
                                                                The first tip is to assume anything you want
              Membership Update                                 to copy is copyrighted and you can't post it
              by Jim Dexter:                                    without the owner's authorization.
                                                                The site gives some links to collectives and
              Total STC Membership        14,831                clearinghouses that organize and license
              as of September 30, 2007    (up 125 since
                                                                works for their members. For example, if you
                                          August, 2007)
                                                                want to reprint a cartoon, go to http://
              Total Chapter Membership 149            
              Welcome Frank D. Ripp, Maureen T. Jerrett,
              and Amy Rasmussen to our chapter!

                                                                A Time for Giving
                                                                You can help others with the click of a mouse
                                                                at several sites this year, including a portal
              Tips & Tidbits                                    site,, that
                                                                includes AOL and Yahoo as its founders and
              Easy Ways to Make Your                            sponsors.
                                                                The site allows you to search by keyword,
              Web Site a Search Engine                          area of interest and location or by organiza-
              Attention-Grabber                                 tion. It offers direct links to a number of char-
                                                                itable sites, to specific causes, crisis relief,
              You probably have plenty of search engine         and to sites where you can donate non-cash
              optimization (SEO) key phrases on your Web        items.
              site's product and service pages. But there       Network for Good offers some unusual
              are simple ways to give your site even more       options. You can choose from 10 gift baskets
              SEO power. Write brief articles about trends      grouped by themes and causes, create or find
              in your industry or other topics of interest to   a favorite charities list and keep track of your
              your customer, and include hyperlinks             donations.
              (using SEO key phrases) to examples within
                                                                Worried about giving online? Read the 10
              your Web site. Also, review your frequently
                                                                tips for giving safely online.
              asked questions page and add SEO key
              phrases where they fit.                           Wondering if your donations are deductible?
                                                                Read the tax tips.
              Source: Heather Lloyd-Martin, chair, Direct
              Marketing Association's Search Engine
              Marketing Council;

Ragged        APEX 2008 Competition
   Left       The 20th Annual APEX AWARDS FOR
              PUBLICATION EXCELLENCE is now
              accepting entries for APEX 2008 (Entry dead-
              line: MARCH 17, 2008).
              Call for entries information, brochure and
              entry form are posted at http://www.Apex-
              To download the APEX Call for Entries
              brochure, go to: http://www.Apex-
              Just need the APEX Entry Form? Go to:
              You can fill out the PDF Easy Entry Form
              right on your computer screen. (No need to
              find a typewriter or fill out the form by
              hand.) Then just print it and mail it with your
              entries and payment.
              New and revised categories for 2008 include
              • Health & Medical Campaigns
              • Member & Customer Communications
              • Science & Technology Writing
              • News Series Writing
              • How-to Series Writing
              • Employee & Benefit Materials
              • Member & Customer Materials
              • One-of-a-Kind Science & Environment
              • and One-of-a-Kind Public Service.
              For the complete list of all 110 categories, see
              The competition's entry deadline (postmark)
              is MARCH 17, 2008.
              APEX is sponsored by the editors of
              WRITING THAT WORKS, a newsletter for
              writing, editing and communications profes-
              sionals. The contest is open to corporate,
              nonprofit, freelance and agency communica-
              tors. Entrants do not have to be WRITING
              THAT WORKS subscribers.


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