How does a technical writer conceive, plan, create, and publish an app for both the web and mobile? That’s the lesson within the Tuesday morning session A Tech Writer, A Map, and an App, presented by Sarah Maddox. Sarah is the mind behind the app Tech Comm On a Map (see https://ffeathers.wordpress.com/tech-comm-on-a-map/), a repository of events of interest to technical communicators, from idea to coding to finished product.
Sarah explained how the process of making the app, and the lessons she learned on the journey, provided technical confidence, a greater understanding her audience, a mutual respect of colleagues, and a greater sense of community. She discussed the use of open source and how it helped her, and outlined her process, from GitHub to APIs to hackathons. She shared what she learned along the way and told attendees about successes and pitfalls. “Coding is fun, it’s frustrating, and it’s completely absorbing,” she remarked.
In the morning’s second session, Hello World! RIP Traditional Content Strategies and Methodologies, Pam Noreault took attendees through an interactive discussion on how we can provide our users and customers with the types of content they need, whatever that may be. She polled attendees on where they went when they needed help; most replied “Google” or “YouTube.” She then asked, “Why do we stick to traditional content when we don’t use it ourselves?”
The main takeaway from the session, according to Pam, is “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Applying that to content means going beyond the usual to crowdsourcing, social media, gamification, and YouTube. She asked how many attendees spoke with customers, and encouraged that action when it’s available/allowed with a company. One slide presented a fact: You can’t know anybody without spending time with them. “Get personal,” she urged.
To start, she explained, take inventory, do a proof of concept, measure and report results, and then determine strategy, schedule, and execution. She provided a list of UX and marketing strategies to help determine what your customers need, and the appendix of her presentation provides a list of pros and cons for each. She closed by reminding attendees, “Your users are your biggest advocates if you let them.”