57.2, May 2010

Editorial: Technical Communication Online … The Sequel

Technical Communication Online … The Sequel

Menno D.T. de Jong, Editor


In my last editorial, I gave some “behind-the-scenes” information about the redesign of the PDFs of articles and special sections in this journal. At the time I wrote that editorial, the Technical Communication Web site was still under development. I am happy to say that the redesign process is now nearly completed. It has been a demanding process for all parties involved—particularly for the designers at EEI Communications—but I am very proud of the result. Let me take the opportunity to say a little more about the redesign of the Technical Communication Web site.

Apart from the printing-on-demand option, Technical Communication is now available online in two ways. For institutional subscribers, PDF files of all articles and special sections are available via the Ingenta Web site. This site is largely unchanged. For STC members, a new Technical Communication Web site was designed. The idea behind it is that if the journal goes online and many STC members no longer receive their paper edition, the online journal had better be good. This is what we tried to achieve.

Many of the underlying principles of the Web site’s redesign are at the core of the technical communication discipline. Simplicity is one of those principles. The new Web site is simple and straightforward. Of course, simplicity is easy to achieve when only one issue is available, but the overall design of the Web site also ensures simplicity when there will be many volumes and issues. Usability is another important principle. We have included PDF and HTML options to optimally serve readers in different circumstances or with different preferences. The design is also meant to efficiently support users in their navigation among articles, issues, and volumes.

Another principle is that the format offers the potential to further expand the Web site’s functionality. For now, authors may include additional materials about their article on the Web site. Quan Zhou and David Farkas, the first authors to use this possibility, provide Technical Communication readers with important illustrative materials. One of the reviewers asked for such additional information, the authors were willing to provide it, and the new Web site design made it possible. I encourage future authors to provide such materials whenever helpful. Another possible addition will be the option to react to or discuss articles.

Finally, we strove for a design that is compatible with the rest of the STC Web site as well as with the layout of the article PDF files. We wanted the Web site to have a professional and inviting look and feel.

Of course, I must qualify my earlier statement that the redesign process is now nearly complete. We will take the rest of this year to further refine the design. And even in the years to follow, it will be possible to fine-tune certain design aspects. However, the basic look and feel of the Technical Communication Web site and the articles will probably remain intact. In the context of corporate visual identity, a distinction is made between “big bang” changes and gradual, barely noticeable changes. The big bang is now behind us. From now on, we will focus on minor changes that will further improve the journal’s quality and usefulness.

Immediately after the new Web site was launched, I received several reactions from Technical Communication readers. Much to my relief, all readers’ reactions so far have been outright positive, but there were also several ideas to improve specific elements or aspects of the Web site. That is no surprise: we have an entire readership of experts on these matters. I would be grateful for any further feedback on the Web site (as well as on the article PDF design). Feel free to contact me.

In This Issue

This issue includes four articles. The first two articles are by John Killoran. Both deal with an important precondition for effective business Web sites: attracting visitors, either directly or via search engines. Both studies are examples of successful combinations of serious research and practical ambitions. The articles were written first and foremost from the perspective of technical communication businesses and consultants, but the results may be easily translated to other contexts as well. In the first article, a general approach is chosen, assessing the usefulness of online and offline referrals to business Web sites. In the second article, the focus is narrowed to the functioning of search engines and the use of search engine optimization techniques.

The third article in this issue is by Lex van Velsen, Thea van der Geest, and Michaël Steehouder. They reflect on the growing importance of personalization in (computer-mediated) communication, and on the way technical communicators may contribute to the (user-centered) design of such personalized systems.

The fourth article is by Quan Zhou and David Farkas. I have already mentioned it because it is the first article with additional information on the Technical Communication Web site. The article describes a text format for print and online documents that helps readers navigate through a document and understand the vital information in it. The authors not only describe the format extensively but also discuss its usefulness, drawbacks, and requirements.

Each year, an independent jury of three researchers and practitioners selects one outstanding article and up to three distinguished articles that appeared in Technical Communication during the previous calendar year. This year’s jury members were Saul Carliner (chair), Vici Koster-Lenhardt, and last year’s winner, Roger Munger.

The award honors the memory of Frank R. Smith, during whose 18 years as editor this journal became established as the flagship publication of STC and of the profession.

This year, the jury selected one outstanding and one distinguished article.

2009 Outstanding Article in Technical Communication

Han Yu. Putting China’s technical communication into historical context: A look at the Chinese culinary instruction genre. (May 2009)

“An analysis of recipe books that concludes there’s no recipe book for cross-cultural communication. This article raises questions about Western-based conceptions of Chinese culture, and challenges readers to develop, instead, a deeper understanding of that culture and its context.”

2009 Distinguished Article in Technical Communication

Nicole St. Germaine-Madison. Localizing medical information for U.S. Spanish-speakers: The CDC campaign to increase public awareness about HPV. (August 2009)

“A solid research study that offers practical insights into cross-cultural communication.”





Frank R. Smith Outstanding Article Award 2009