writing services in Greenwich CT

Writing for Mobile Apps in Greenwich, CT – The Importance of Great Online Help for Mobile Apps

Posted by | mobile user assistance, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical documentation in Greenwich CT, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

It’s no secret that the world has moved to mobile communications in a big way. This not only includes telephone and text messaging, but also an growing variety of applications from gaming and social media to productivity and shopping. Like their older cousins in the desktop and web-based universes, these new apps have been captivating the public and will continue to do so. And just like traditional software applications, the importance of user assistance cannot be overstated.

How popular and widespread is mobile usage? Consider the following data:

  • Out of more than seven billion people living on the planet, there are now estimated to be over six billion people with mobile subscriptions. 
  • 50% of the average global mobile web users now use their mobile devices as their primary means of getting online.
  • The average person actively uses 6.5 apps in a 30-day period.
  • 80% of mobile time is spent using apps.

Those are pretty amazing numbers. They point to very logical conclusion that mobile apps aren’t going away. In fact, their use will only increase as the technology becomes more advanced and visually dazzling.

However, as the use of mobile apps continues to increase, the need for on-the-spot, efficient and useful user assistance  will also increase. So people will continue to need help using these new and wonderful mobile apps, whether for phone or tablet.

I’ve taken a good look at the help available for the apps that I use on my own mobile devices and I’ve found them mostly wanting. Generally it seems to me that mobile help is often an afterthought. In the rush to go “mobile” and be early to market, companies typically consider mobile help last, if at all. Interestingly, we never seem to learn from the past; when software applications first appeared on desktop computers, the help was often lacking in completeness, accessibility and usability.

So what’s wrong with today’s mobile help?

  • A lot of is not specifically designed for mobile use. Help authoring tools are now offering export features that allow existing online help, designed for desktop or web-based applications, to be ported to a format that can be displayed on a mobile device.
  • It’s not visual enough. There’s too much text-based help, and mobile apps are visual beasts.
  • There’s either not enough information or there’s too much information.
  • A lot of apps make it difficult to find the help, often forcing the user to go to a separate screen to get help.

The best mobile apps are, like their older desktop and web-based applications, designed with user assistance integrated into the app itself. But these seem to be few and far between. Again, software companies are often under pressure to deliver an app to market as quickly as possible, and in that rush, it’s the documentation that often suffers.

I will provide some examples of good and bad mobile help in future articles. For now, take a look at your own mobile apps and see how your own user assistance stacks up. CohenWrite of Greenwich, CT can help.

Sources:

http://thenextweb.com/insider/2014/01/08/worldwide-internet-social-media-and-mobile-statistics-dig-into-183-pages-of-data/

http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-2013-mobile-growth-statistics/

Report from the  International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

 

 

API Documentation in Greenwich CT

Posted by | API documentation, freelance technical writer, technical documentation in Greenwich CT, technical writing, Uncategorized, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

Having worked in the software industry for oh, forever, I’ve worked with a lot of software developers. And there is a universal truth in the realm of software development: Programmers hate to write documentation. Even those developers who begin a project with the best of intentions end of stumbling somewhere along the way, and the code that is ultimately produced contains little or no useful documentation. But ironically, software developers LOVE good API documentation.

Well, of course they do. Good API documentation leads a programmer by the hand through the jungle of functions, methods, events, parameters and yes, the dreaded best practices. The best API documentation should include the following elements:

  • Completeness. Every aspect of an API should be documented.
  • Examples. This is very important.
  • Sample applications, if available.
  • Ease of use and accessibility. API Documentation is best presented in an online format with lots of related links, easily accessible to the busy, impatient programmer.
  • Coverage of multiple languages, if applicable and practical.
  • Documentation of error codes.

CohenWrite has a lot of experience working with software developers and API documentation. Let us help you help your developers.

Webinar Planning and Scripting from Technical Writer in Greenwich, CT

Posted by | freelance technical writer, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical documentation in Greenwich CT, technical writing, Web-based user assistance, webinar planning and scripting, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

By now we’ve all heard of web conferencing, that ubiquitous service that allows conferencing events to be shared with remote locations over the Internet. The modern term for this service is Webinar, and they have become both popular and quite useful for customers of all kinds of companies.

Webinars are often presented as a combination of software demonstration and PowerPoint presentations, and frequently provide some form of take-away document at the end. The take-away document can be the actual PowerPoint presentation, which can be problematic if the presentation is too wordy, too vague, or doesn’t have enough meaningful images; or an additional document specifically designed for this purpose. One of the most popular webinar services is Webex, which is a proprietary service from Cisco.

Some web conferencing solutions require that additional software be installed by the presenter and participants. Some web conferencing vendors provide a complete solution while others just enhance existing technologies. Participants can be individuals or a group. The best webinar systems allow individuals to interact with the presenter by means of a chat panel, in which the attendees can ask questions that are seen live by the presenter. Many webinar vendors provide either a recorded copy of an event, or a means for a subscriber to record an event. In my experience, the majority of people who register for a webinar end up not attending but going back later and watching or downloading the recording of the event. So the ability to record webinars is very important.

Of course the most important aspect of a webinar is the actual presentation. Is it focused on a single piece of software or logical group of software functions? Is there a demonstration of the software? If there are slides to present, are they useful and capture the attention of the attendees?

Webinars can be a very cool way to impart important information to your customers about what your product does, how it works, and how to use it. Shorter webinars are usually more effective than longer webinars because quite honestly, most people are busy, multi-tasking, or simply lose focus after too much time. Of courser, a good writer can provide webinar planning and scripting, and some, this author included, can even do justice to the presentation.

Useful and Interesting Stuff Around the Web: from Technical Writer in Greenwich CT

Posted by | Content Strategy, freelance technical writer, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical documentation in Greenwich CT, technical writing, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

There’s a lot of useful and interesting stuff floating around the web these days on a variety of topics, particularly those of interest to businesses who are thinking about how to present information to their customers. Unfortunately, there’s so much lousy and wasteful content out there, most people give up trying to find the good content.

Here then, are a few links to some articles and blog posts that I found useful and interesting, and I hope you do too:

A collective thanks to the authors of the aforementioned articles.

Technical documentation writing services in Greenwich CT

Posted by | freelance technical writer, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical documentation in Greenwich CT, technical writing, Uncategorized, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

CohenWrite is backed by more than 25 years experience writing documentation for software and hardware products using a variety of popular authoring tools. In the “old days,” we used to write long-hand content and hand it over to a typist who prepared printed pages on a Xerox 860 system. Now we use all kinds of sophisticated single-based authoring software to prepare the widest variety of content to software users over the Internet.  The tools may have changed, but the fundamental principles underlying documentation content have not. End users still need to know how to get the most of out of your product. This is the value that experienced technical writers add to your product and your company.

Technical documentation includes but is not limited to:

  • Step-by-by procedural manuals
  • Online help
  • Immediate help embedded in the software itself
  • Conceptual information
  • Visual learning guides
  • Collaborative documentation
  • Information for programmers (API guides, for example)
  • Training guides

And the list goes on.

Twiki content planning and authoring in Greenwich CT

Posted by | freelance technical writer, technical writing, twiki planning and authoring, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

We’ve all used a wiki at one or another, either at work or on the Internet. The most popular example of wiki technology is wikipedia.org, everybody’s favorite online encyclopedia. Its most basic application is collaborative authoring, and this writer has been involved in the planning and authoring of wiki content using one “brand” of wiki – Twiki. But most wiki software works the same way.

A wiki is an application accessed in a web browser. It allows people to add, delete or change content in a collaborative environment. Wiki authors enter text using a simplified format and the structure of the information is usually created based on the needs of the participants. Wikis can be used to manage content and a single author does not typically control that content. Many authors contribute to the content.

Twiki is a wonderful tool and is often overlooked. However, smart companies know the value of this tool. Using a wiki to dispense and share information can greatly enhance the collective knowledgebase of an organization by allowing active and regular collaboration among software developers, writers, marketing staff and indeed, every department and employee. Everyone in an organization can post, read and add comments to coding notes, testing protocols and results, product specifications, internal documentation, meeting notes, scheduling, metrics and a whole lot more. It’s really simple: important information disseminated to more employees makes them smarter.

Wikis are often used as the basis for websites, presenting content to the public (Wikipedia) or even functioning as customer service portals where customers can post questions and issues and service reps can respond with solutions.

To summarize, most organizations could benefit from implementing a wiki in one form or another.

Web-based user assistance – technical writing in Greenwich CT

Posted by | freelance technical writer, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical writing, Web-based user assistance, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

These days, user assistance comes in many forms. We still produce traditional sources of assistance for our customers in the form of sequentially organized printable user manuals and online help systems. But web-based assistance – that is, content that is viewed in a web browser – has become more and more common, and not just for web-based applications.

Go to any website that sells any product. Many will feature “online help” that appears directly on the web page when a customer clicks a link or a menu command. This kind of web-based help is often quite effective when displayed in its own panel or other type of container directly on the page. A single click gives the user access to the correct information exactly when he or she needs it, rather than forcing the user to go dig around in some 500-page PDF manual or click around in an external help system. And we’re all familiar with the ubiquitous Frequently Asked Questions pages at our favorite online shopping hangout.

Then there are web-based software applications, which often provide different kinds of user assistance. While an external help system remains a traditional solution to user assistance for web-based apps, including in-depth procedural and conceptual information, this type of system does have some drawbacks. For example, it sits outside of the application itself and a user must take multiple steps to find the right information, removing their focus from the task at hand in the application. Testing consistently finds that most users do not use the help system at all after failing once to find relevant information.

The best way to provide user assistance for web-based application is to embed the information directly in the application user interface. Finding answers to questions in embedded user assistance takes almost no effort – the information is usually right there on the screen, or appears directly on the screen with a single, obvious click. Again, testing consistently finds that users are more likely to use embedded help than an external help system.

The lesson here? Web-used user assistance is preferable to external help systems, or at the very least, should be the first line of defense for a confused user.

Online and printable end user guides technical writing

Posted by | freelance technical writer, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical writing, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

Even though the advent of social media and customer feedback and interaction has begun to change the way software help is delivered, most software companies still produce online and printable user guides.  CohenWrite is backed by 25 years of experience authoring end user guides using the most popular documentation authoring tools, including Madcap Flare, Adobe FrameMaker, RoboHelp and yes, even Microsoft Word. Current versions of these tools allow authors to output multiple deliverables from a single set of source files, making the process of producing and delivering information to suit your audience fairly painless.

Customers who buy your software applications, whatever they are, still need to know how to use them. They still need to know step-step-procedures, identify user interface elements, and understand how to get the most out of your product. End user guides, especially when delivered online and embedded in the software itself, still serves this purpose when designed properly, with the needs of the end user in mind.

CohenWrite can produce all of your end user guides using modern authoring tools, helping you to deliver the right information to your customers at the right time.

Software user assistance technical writing services in Greenwich CT

Posted by | freelance technical writer, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical writing, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

Software User Assistance is one of those phrases created in the modern information age to describe both the process of developing information to support software users and the information itself. Software user assistance has many names, online help being the best known and most commonly accessed from any software program by pressing the F1 key on a keyboard.

In a former age, technical writers created printed documentation for software users. You remember those multiple, large volumes of instructions that required a big shipping box to hold them. These manuals invariably sat for years on your office bookshelf, often unopened and unread. If you did read them, you would probably jump right to the index and hope to find something useful. Then with the aid of newer, more robust authoring tools, we added online help to the mix of user assistance outputs. Online help provided software users with a dedicated window of content, context-sensitive to the software function you were currently using. The great thing about online help was that it allowed content to be driven by the needs of the user; hyperlinks connected related topics of information in a non-linear structure. The advent of modern documentation tools allowed us to produce printed and online outputs from a single source of information, and provide a more dynamic online help experience. The Internet has provided for an even richer user experience, allowing for dynamic information updates and a variety of information formats and presentations, including more and better images and video. More recently, the explosion of social media has given our users the ability to contribute to the documentation through the use of information feedback and sharing.

Technical writers are the traditional authors of software user assistance, but technical writing is only one of the skills now required to write good software documentation. These days, software user assistance skills can now include technical writing, user interface design and usability, editing, project planning, coding, indexing, testing, localization and standards.

Today, software user assistance is a very broad term and encompasses any and all content provided to users to help them get the most of the software that you have sold them. And it is a critical part of your user’s experience.

Welcome to CohenWrite – Professional Writing Services

Posted by | freelance technical writer, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical writing, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

Welcome to CohenWrite!

CohenWrite provides professional writing services in the areas of Software User Assistance, Technical Documentation, Marketing and Advertising Copy, SEO-Friendly Website Content, Content Strategy, User Education, and Editing to companies large and small who lack the internal resources to generate such content themselves.

After decades of providing content as an employee of businesses in a wide variety of industries, I am bringing my expertise to the wider world as a consultant. Check out some of the pages on this site to learn more about me and what I can do for you:

  • Read about my background on the About and Biography pages.
  • Take a look at some of the companies for whom I have written in the past on the Clients & Samples page.
  • And take a look at the kinds of writing I can provide to help your business grow on the Services page.