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Highlights of Lavacon 2011: Going Global

Jack Molisani hosted the ninth annual Lavacon Conference November 13-16 2011 at the Omni Hotel in Austin, Texas with a conference theme focusing on “Developing Content for a Global Audience”. The conference consisted of many different workshops and presentations accompanied by several hands-on activities/events. GPI’s own Maxwell Hoffmann was a speaker and panelist at Adobe’s Lavacon opening event; where he presented on the 25 Years of FrameMaker and spoke on a panel that addressed future Technical Communication Trends.

Presentations from many thought leaders in the technical communications industry covered a range of topics such as content awareness, social media, and localization. After the daily opening presentation, attendees could choose from five workshops tracks: Project Management, User Experience, Content Strategy, Globalization or Mobile/ Social Engagement. This blog covers a few of the dominant messages conveyed at several key presentations.


The Content Revolution

Keynote speaker Joe Gollner of Gnostyx Research kicked off the conference with a compelling presentation that covered major trends on
The Content Revolution
, revealing the “shifting sands” beneath our feet. Joe used analogies on considering content as food. The content solution lifecycle requires (a) content acquisition, (b) content strategy, (c) content management, (c) content evolution and (d) content delivery.

As with a successful restaurant, Gollner recommends personalizing, then delivering and presenting content with a goal of increasing satisfaction (customer retention) by ten-fold.

Content evolution focuses on feedback: (a) engage, (b) listen, (c) adapt and (d) improve.

Major trends moving content to the center of importance are: (a) globalization, (b) product innovation, (c) socialization, (d) optimization and (e) integration. With Globalization, content and products are designed, built, delivered and supported for customers around the world. In globalization, every customer is unique. Customization of content and products are essential to suit the context and preference of each global customer segment.

Socialization and changing customer roles: customers are now deciding new uses for products and how they can best be used. Customer content provides the feedback that drives product evolution. In this scenario, the customer is essentially becoming a part-time product manager.


Mobile Usability Guidelines

Marta Rauch of Oracle gave a compelling presentation on 7 Key Mobile Usability Guidelines to Implement Now.  With smart phones outselling PCs and Amazon selling more eBooks than printed books, content delivery is changing quickly; global mobile app and ad revenue grew 17 times over the past 3 years. Here are the 7 recommended guidelines:

  • Do a Mobile Task Analysis: who are your mobile users and what tasks do they need to perform?
  • Define your Mobile UA Strategy: define mobile context, needs, tasks and your UA architecture.
  • Adopt Mobile Style Guidelines
  • Use Prototypes to Validate Mobile UA
  • Build in Mobile Accessibility
  • Test on Target Mobile Devices
  • Work with Mobile Translators. Get agreement on:

    • Language for gestures,
    • Icon format and file size, screenshots
    • File names
    • Localized icons and screenshots
    • Text truncation, dialog box resizing
    • Line and word wrapping
    • Language specific characters
    • Messages
    • Installers and setup

Make the Most of Small Screens: plan for partial attention, consider word reduction and make tasks obvious.

Provide a Mobile Website: have a separate mobile website, “detect and direct”, have responsive design, optimize your mobile site for browsers used by customers you have targeted.

Developing a Global Language: When Words are not Enough

Alan J. Porter gave an intriguing presentation that was composed almost entirely of images. His point was that more and more, communication needs to take place as much as possible with visible images to transcend language. A series of historic precedents were shared, as well as recent development of universally recognized icons.

Examples of how Ikea and Lego have used pictorial images to created effective instructions were shared. Communications can no longer be restricted to text, or in some cases, even have text as the dominant element.  Video is being increasingly used in all forms of documentation. Some post-session attendee feedback indicated that Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite, with integration of rich media and motion screen capture from Captivate into FrameMaker and PDF or Help output is gaining favor.

25 Years of FrameMaker and 20 Years of RoboHelp

On Monday evening Adobe Systems threw a birthday party for their two key components of Technical Communication Suite: FrameMaker (25 years old) and RoboHelp (20 years old). As always Adobe did not disappoint with this event. Before you entered the room you were given your “fifteen minutes of fame” with a crown atop your head and a red carpet entrance into the event. You then were served by a chef who created “on demand” delicious pasta entrées cooked in “real time.” Complimentary champagne as well as an open bar lifted the mood as evidenced by a barrage of photographs taken by Adobe’s own personal event photographer. Great prizes including a copy of Adobe’s TechComm Suite 3.5, and a Kindle Fire, which were given away near the end of the event