Looking at Search Analytics to Improve Help Content

No help strategy can be complete without including regular analysis of search analytics. Search analytics are the metrics about how users access to your help content. For example, some key search analytics include the number of page views for each page in your help, the length of time each page was viewed, the bounce rate, and so on. I use Adobe Site Catalyst (Omniture) to track the page views, paths, and other web analytics information ...

Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Technical Writing

1. What technical writing tools should I learn? 2. Should I get a technical writing degree or certificate? 3. How do I get a job in technical writing without experience? 4. I’m interested in technical writing, but isn’t it boring? 5. Would I be good technical writer? I don’t have a background in technology or writing. 6. I don’t have money to buy the tools, but all technical writer jobs seem to require knowledge of these tools. ...

Connection Points with the Tech Comm Role

I've noticed a trend lately in the role I play as a technical writer, but I'm not sure if the experience is common enough to be similar to other technical writers' roles, or whether it's just a role unique to my work. I have felt more and more that I'm becoming a "connector." This is both good and bad — but mostly good. Here a few ways I connect people at work: A lot of our users interact through an online forum. We try to drive a lot of ...

Girl Scouts Painting and Comic Art Badges

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to enroll out girls in Girl Scouts. It turns out there's a Girl Scout office in American Fork, Utah, and numerous active troops in the area. This week we focused on the Painting badge (Brownies) and the Comic Arts badge (Cadettes). For the Painting badge, Callie had to create several different types of paintings: still life, a mood, a painting that uses natural objects as brushes, and a mural. For the Comic Ar...

Discovering Girl Scouts

We recently discovered the Girl Scouts program. I have a colleague whose wife used to work for the Girl Scouts, and I've talked to her about it several times, so the program has been on my mind for a while. But we just haven't made the right connections to get involved. I wasn't sure there was an office or troop nearby. Then we discovered an office in American Fork, and it turns out there are a quite a few troops nearby as well. We joined righ...

Create a Child Theme to Customize a WordPress Theme

If you're customizing a WordPress theme, it's best to create a child theme out of the WordPress theme. With a child theme, you can update the parent theme when updates are available. Any customizations you make to the child theme will be retained. Here's how it works. If you'll be creating a child theme for the Twenty Twelve theme (whose folder in wp-content/themes is "twentytwelve"), create a folder called twentytwelve-child and upload ...

Message from Sponsors — January 2013

Talk Plugin for Atlassian Confluence If you use Atlassian Confluence for creating documentation, you might have noticed that it lacks something that is essential for technical writing — a reviewing feature. Talk Plugin can fix that. Talk Plugin for Confluence allows you to leave your comments everywhere on Confluence pages and blogs and take part in discussions with your colleagues. Moreover, Talk can save you a great deal of time with it...

Reader Question: "My Wish List for Technical Writing Tools"

I recently received a comment from a reader who sent me a wish list for technical writing tools. Sam from Canada writes, Hi Tom, I've been enjoying your posts along with Mark Baker's. You both have good points about technical writing trends. I could be totally wrong, but maybe it's not the tech writers that are resisting change. Maybe it's the companies making the tools/money that are resisting change. I can't believe I'm the only writer ...

Moving Between the Agora and the Desert

I had a conversation with a developer the other day about help material. He said that when he sees static pages, he assumes the content is out of date. He prefers forum threads because he can see the dates, and because forums contain real information from people using the product. He likes wikis because he can easily check to see when the information was last edited and by who. One concern he had in our migration away from wikis to a help...

7 Ways to Increase Flare's Search Engine Optimization in Google's Results

I've noticed a trend in search results lately. Users are searching for my help products and landing on our technology blog that has articles about the topic rather than landing on the help material for the product. For example, a user might have an issue with "newsletter," so he or she searches for newsletter and lands on the beta testing announcement for newsletter that I wrote for our technology blog months ago. The help for newsletter ...

Knowledge Has a New Shape, and It's Not the Book

http://www.toobigtoknow.com/ One of the most interesting chapters in Too Big To Know is David Weinberger's discussion of long and short form content. I found the chapter particularly relevant because just the other day, I published a 3,700 word post and had a reader comment that the length — for a blog post — was heinous. I'm not saying the commenter was out of place to object to such length online, since I too sigh at long posts, but he...

Podcast: Include It All, Filter It Afterwards -- Interview with Mark Baker

Listen here: In this podcast, I talk with Mark Baker from Every Page Is Page One about the ideas he discussed in his Lavacon presentation: Include It All, Filter It Afterwards. This is a line from David Weinberger's book Too Big To Know, which explores the way that knowledge is taking the shape of a network rather than the traditional book. The podcast is about 45 minutes long. Similar to other podcasts, the format work...

The Rebirth of My Podcast

I'm going to experiment with some new podcasts, but I want to try something different. The other day I was listening to Boagworld on the way to work, because I think Paul Boag is one of the most successful and longstanding podcasters. He starts out with some playful cohost banter, followed by a few news items that he discusses with his cohosts, and then gets into some techniques and principles for web design, and then usually interviews s...

My Upcoming Presentations at User Assistance Europe in Manchester, England

This year I'll be traveling to Manchester, England to the User Assistance Europe conference there and presenting the following: Make Your Content More Findable When Users Browse and Search Users tend to search help material when they have a specific question they're looking to answer. In contrast, users tend to browse help material when they don't know exactly what they're looking for. Browsing often leads to better searching, and more s...

A Few Notes from Too Big To Know

http://www.toobigtoknow.com/ After my last post, I thought I should start reading Weinberger's Too Big to Know. I liked his previous book, Everything Is Miscellaneous, and so far this one is engaging too. In Too Big to Know, Weinberger talks a lot about knowledge, and how the Internet changes what we know. He says that if the scope of our group is large enough, as is the case with the Internet, there's usually someone out there with the ...