CDMM research: 6 questions to Noz Urbina

In April, CDMM students had the pleasure to interview Noz Urbina for their research projects. Noz Urbina  (Urbina Consulting) is a globally recognized leader in content strategy, customer journey mapping, and adaptive content modelling. He is co-author of the book “Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits” and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences, Graz, Masters Programme in content strategy.

This year, several of CDMM students’ research projects focus on enjoyable customer experience and the relationships between marketing and technical communication. The students tapped into Noz’s expertise in that field to move their projects forward.

1- How can we make technical communication more enjoyable to users?

Make it invisible! Those who are old enough to remember Microsoft Clippy know that if you make technical help too pro-active, it can become really annoying. Today, however, we have smarter  devices that can better detect context to deliver information – but this information needs to be relevant: Don’t shove an encyclopedia under people’s noses, even if it has a search box! People want answers they can action – not better tech docs. Be open to any medium, paradigm or method that can better convey those answers into people’s minds.

Make sure you distinguish doing time from learning time. For doing-time content, you can use 3D diagrams and explodes to make your content more engaging, but don’t pull users away into a game. For learning-time content, where there are things to memorize, you can use gamification, narratives and visual metaphors. If you can engage pleasure or pain, then people will memorize better. For that reason, games are a good, enjoyable choice to support learning. There’s more to docs than just looking up quick facts or tasks. Technical communication should help users self-educate when appropriate.

In both cases, consider tone and voice: while tone may vary depending on context, the voice you use for the brand should be consistent across the experience.

2- How can we make technical communication more enjoyable to us as professionals?

Technical communicators generally don’t enjoy putting specs into words, and sadly that’s often what they’re doing. Technical communication is a multidisciplinary activity that requires communicators to get into the mindset of users. Creating technical content becomes more enjoyable when you know that you are solving real people’s real problems. Customer journey mapping is a way to make the experience more enjoyable for users and technical communicators alike. Ideally, bring together support, sales, marketing and other people outside your silo around a customer journey map to review how customers accomplish their objectives out in the field. Identify emotional hot spots and ask “is it content or is it bad design?” to identify where content can help in the journey. When content is not the problem, capture that feedback and give it back to the people who can make a difference. A customer journey map enables you to go have more useful conversations about content because you’re talking about the customer view, not your own. Take the opportunity to get into the users’ shoes for a while.

3- Can semantic structure make technical content more enjoyable?

Semantic structure makes content easier to personalize. Semantics is the study of meaning. When we use semantic metadata, that makes content more flexible and adaptive, so that it can be handled by a computer. Personalisation makes content more enjoyable because it focuses the delivery on what’s most relevant. Semantic metadata can also help more relevant content get found by search engines, which helps it solve more people’s problems. This makes the whole endeavor more satisfying.

4- What advice could we give a technical communication department to be more efficient?

You could tell that technical communication department to focus their efforts on 3 points:

  • Customer journey mapping lets you plan what you want to kill, that is, stop making stuff just because you’ve always done it. Maintaining unnecessary or bloated content wastes time and makes consumption faster and easier.
  • Semantic analysis, that is, information typing and content analysis, helps you do better reuse. For example, you can decide to split up a piece of information that is trying to do too much and reuse a part of it. You don’t have to be stick to DITA types for information typing: for example, having a type of information for narrative enables reuse of content that creates a human connection, while keeping consistency in voice. This is often helpful for training or other cross-silo reuse scenarios. Check out Rob Hanna from Precision Content’s work for more details about information typing.
  • Metadata alignment. For example, you can use tools like PoolParty (an ontology management system) to align metadata inside and outside of the technical communication department and drive personalisation or contextual-content.

5- What is the most important thing technical communicators can learn from marketers?

Technical communicators can learn several things from marketers:

  • Relationship building – as opposed to focusing only on speed in delivery and cost efficiency
  • Web design – as opposed to document design
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) – as opposed to focusing only on navigation optimization
  • Analytics and measurement – check the ROI, use, and engagement that your content is achieving

6- What do marketing and technical communication have in common?

Marketing and Tech Pubs are the two parts of the organization that understand words, and that manage customer-facing communication.

They have similar requirements:

  • Call centers rely on technical communication a lot. Marketing are starting to look into call centers because it’s one of the only places when the brand gets to actually speak to users post-sale.
  • Field services and support read the documentation, but they don’t talk. Marketing and Tech Pubs both need them to be carriers of messages to market, and also channels of valuable incoming feedback.

Marketing and Tech Pubs need to align their terminology and context to define who delivers which message, to whom, when and how. Marketing will need to industrialize their content management and scale their processes for the unknown, using skills that tech pubs developed years ago out of their famous necessity for reuse and efficiency. Digital transformation, communication and content are the fastest development areas in the world right now. This is the type of alchemy that happens at the Intelligent Content Conference. People like Jeff Eaton, Rachel Lovinger, Joe Pairman, Ann Rockley, Andrea Ames, or Cruce Saunders are good resources to explore the common points between marketing and technical communication.
Thank you Noz for taking the time to answer our questions and moving our research projects forward!

Adapting Personal Learning Environments to the Workplace?

Erika CABOUL, Nicolas CHLEFFER, Caroline VAISSIERE

Paris Diderot University, July 2016

Abstract

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) have emerged in the higher educational field with the development of web 2.0 applications and tools. Their main features allow them to be particularly user-centric. They also rely on customization and collaborative  learning. As they cater to the learner needs – lifelong and ubiquitous access, PLEs stand at the border of formal and informal education spheres. They nevertheless raise technological and privacy issues that make them somewhat difficult to implement in the workplace. Moreover, business factors and corporate stakes are to be considered when trying to foster community-learning activities within a standardized and controlled environment such as that of the existing Learning Management System (LMS). However, some experiments have been conducted at companies level, leading to promising results for the future.

Read the full article (PDF): Adapting Personal Learning Environments to the Workplace?

What is the role of technical writers in fostering accessibility?

Victoria Genin, MarcAlexandre Jacques, Tiphaine Monange

Paris Diderot University, July 1st 2016

Abstract

With the creation of international standards and the rise of public awareness, web and software accessibility have become a topical issue. Yet, it seems like accessibility is still rarely taken into account by technical companies who prefer to focus on innovation.

Part of the usability and accessibility of a software is based on its documentation. As technical writers, we wondered which role technical writers have to play in fostering accessibility.

The information used in this article was drawn from three main sources. In addition to reading articles written by accessibility researchers, we carried out two surveys to study the scope of accessibility in the creation and navigation of user interfaces: the first one was sent to disabled users and the second one to professionals. We also interviewed a highly experienced technical writer trained in accessibility. The results led us to conclude that technical writers definitely have a key role to play in fostering accessibility standards – either by increasing their cooperation with developers or by implementing accessibility solutions themselves.

Read the full article (PDF): What is the role of technical writers in fostering accessibility?

The impact of the digital enterprise on technical communication

Sarah Consentino, Paul Desreux, Alexandre Dias Da Silva, Vincent Perrot

Paris Diderot University, July 2016

Abstract

The digital revolution has changed consumer behavior in the software industry, and digital organizations must keep up with all those changes to stay competitive. As a result, understanding customers’ needs has become part of technical communication. By compiling recent data and studies, this article aims at answering the following question: to what extent have technologies impacted the way that technical communicators assist users to offer them the best experience possible? We first analyzed how companies are starting to place more emphasis on customer experience through digital channels, and to what extent those changes have impacted the way technical communicators present the information and talk to customers. Then, we investigated and found out why technical communication is now perceived as a measurable added business value for companies.

Read the full article (PDF): The impact of the digital enterprise on technical communication

How User Experience helps reshape technical documentation

Célia Goiset, Océane Franc

July 2013

Abstract

This article explains how the User eXperience (UX) reshapes technical documentation. The fundamental purpose of this research is to show how users’ expectations have an impact on technical documentation. Indeed, technical writing is not only the presentation of information but also how it is designed to meet users’ needs. The goal of the technical writer is to communicate the information in a clear and effective way so that the documentation audience understands it well and quickly. In this article, we will first explain the importance of user experience practices in the technical writing field to then analyze the methods used to satisfy users’ needs in our companies while highlighting the UX impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the documentation. Finally, we will identify some of the UX best practices and tools to create better documentation and ensure the product and company sustainability.

Read the full article (PDF): How User Experience helps reshape technical documentation

2nd International Conference on Technical Communication – The semantic web and user experience (2012)

Patricia Minacori, le laboratoire de recherche CLILLAC-ARP, de l’Université de Paris Diderot, en association avec STC France et CRT sont heureux de vous accueillir, à l’amphi Buffon, 15 rue Hélène Brion, 75013 Paris, entrée libre

samedi 17 mars 2012

2nd International Conference on Technical Communication

Web sémantique et ergonomie

Les problématiques abordées concernant le Web sémantique porteront sur ses apports, les enjeux et les perspectives offerts à la communication technique.

Il sera aussi question des nouvelles frontières de l’ergonomie : la multiplication des contenus numériques (livres, tablettes) constitue un nouveau défi dans le domaine de l’expérience utilisateur. Comment les ergonomes et les communicateurs techniques y répondent-ils ?

9h30 – 10h Accueil des intervenants et des participants

10h-10h30 Ouverture du Colloque : La recherche de plein champ à Paris Diderot [PDF]

Patricia Minacori, Directrice du Département professionnalisation, Paris Diderot

Ray Gallon, Président STC France

10h30–11h00 Les apprentis communicateurs techniques de Paris Diderot : les projets  de recherche

11h00–11h30 Web sémantique et représentation de la connaissance : une nouvelle proposition de valeur pour les communicateurs techniques [PDF]

Virginie Ahrens, User Technology Manager, IBM France, Professeur associé Paris Diderot

11h30-12h00 Application des principes du Web sémantique dans DITA (OASIS) : comment utiliser les métadonnées et pourquoi le rédacteur technique devrait s’en soucier ? [PDF]

Nolwenn Kerzreho , Professeur Associé, Université Rennes II

12h-13h30 Déjeuner

13h30-14h00 Standardisation des formats à l’épreuve des nouveaux media : situation et enjeux

Thierry Stoehr, Université Paris Diderot

14h00-14h30 Expérience utilisateur et innovation technologique : utilisateur-modèle/ utilisateur-concret [PDF]

Béatrice Drot-Delange, Dacia Dressen-Hammouda, Laboratoire ACTé (EA4281), Clermont Université, Université Blaise Pascal

14h30-15h00 Nouveaux usages dans la documentation et l’aide aux utilisateurs : le cas de la notice de montage [PDF]

Laurent Bidoia (Société Affordance), Anthony Loiselet (Société A+B)

15h00-15h30 Nouvelles applications tactiles, sensorielles, intuitives : que reste-t-il à expliquer ?

Yves Rinato (intactile DESIGN)

15h30-16h00 Débats

1st International Conference on Technical Communication – Technical communication and user experience (2011)

1st International Conference on Technical Communication

Technical communication and user experience

Le laboratoire de recherche CLILLAC-ARP, de l’Université de Paris Diderot, en association avec le Bureau de Paris de la STC (Society for Technical Communication) sont heureux de vous inviter à participer à un séminaire sur la communication technique le Samedi 26 mars à l’Université Paris Diderot.
Thèmes du séminaire
  • ergonomie des documents,
  • web sémantique,
  • e-learning,
  • stratégie de contenu,
  • architecture de l’information

10h-10h30 Ouverture du séminaire

  • Patricia Minacori, Directrice Département professionnalisation, Paris Diderot : La recherche de plein champ à Paris Diderot
  • Ray Gallon, Président STC France : La STC et la recherche
  • Les apprentis communicateurs techniques de Paris Diderot : les projets de recherche.

10h30–11h00 Comment intégrer la communication visuelle et interactive dans la communication technique ?
Bruno Wagner, Communicateur technique, SKF

11h00–11h30 Design et communication technique
Raya Hristova, Elodie Dionisio Gomes, Esteban Villate, Etudiants M2 CDMM, Paris Diderot

11h30-12h00 Prendre en compte l’utilisateur pour concevoir des documents procéduraux adaptés : une approche de psychologie cognitive ergonomique
Franck Ganier, maître de conférences, Université de Bretagne Occidentale Brest

12h-12h30 Ergonomie de l’avertissement
Marie Louise Flacke, Information Developer, Chargée de cours Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest

12h30-13h30 Déjeuner

13h30-14h00 Le Lego ® du contenu
Marie Girard, Communicateur Technique IBM France

14h00-14h30 Voyage dans le contenu: créer son modèle d’information
Virginie Ahrens, Directeur Senior Département ILOG User Technologies, IBM France

14h30-15h00 Ontologies et recherche d’informations dans le domaine scientifique
Claire Nédélec, Chercheur INRA

15h00-15h30 Developing Content for the International Marketplace
Patrick Aubry, Lloyd International Translations

15h30-16h00 Les agents conversationnels
Charlotte Levenès, Virtuoz