January 11-Extreme Flare: Taking Flare to the Max

Speaker: Michael Hamilton, VP, Product Evangelism @ MadCap Software

In this presentation we will cover the best practices in the following four
areas:

  • Flare Project Architecture – What are your choices and how do you set up for success?
  • Mike’s Three Favorite CSS Techniques – Making indents, lists, and figure captions easy
  • Adding Video Content – Three important lessons learned over years of using multimedia files
  • Publishing Options – From manual to fully automatic and the stops in-between

Continue reading “January 11-Extreme Flare: Taking Flare to the Max”

January 9-STC/SM Networking Lunch

Greetings fellow STC/SM members!

One of the most important benefits we derive from our local chapter membership is the opportunity to network with fellow technical communicators in our area. As such, the STC/SM leadership team has initiated a program of local networking lunches, breakfasts, after-work happy hours, etc.

On Thursday, January 9, I will be hosting a casual STC/SM NETWORKING LUNCH at the Panera Bread location at 2508 South Adams Road, in Rochester Hills. I plan to arrive at 10:30 a.m. (to get a good seating area, although the store is quite large inside) and stay until 1:00 p.m. If you can join for any part of that time, we’d love to have you. We’ll use the time to get to know one another, talk about our role as technical communicators, and discuss STC-SM membership and ideas for increasing its value to technical communicators. Each attendee is responsible for purchasing his/her lunch or beverages, but the conversation is FREE! Continue reading “January 9-STC/SM Networking Lunch”

Thinking about the December 10 Holiday Mixer – and Beyond

Written by Tom Glennan

There’s a classic winter song that begins, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.” Well, the weather for the December 10 holiday mixer, co-sponsored by STC/SM, Michigan CHI and UxPA, was definitely frightful, with very low temperatures, blowing winds and snow flurries. And while there was no fire inside Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Ann Arbor, the food, conversation and presentation were definitely delightful, as was the opportunity to meet and speak with people from our partnering organizations. Chris Farnum, a member of the user experience (Ux) team at ProQuest, gave a very informative and engaging presentation on wireframes and some tips on how to make good wireframes with techniques that transcend the tools. He also took a stab at answering the oft-asked question, “Are wireframes dead?” All in all, for someone like me who initially thought wireframes were a particular style of eyewear, the presentation Chris gave was both enjoyable and enlightening. Continue reading “Thinking about the December 10 Holiday Mixer – and Beyond”

Ann Arbor Networking Breakfast – Recap

Written by Maryann Bowen

Seven people set their alarms to gather for breakfast at 7 a.m. on Friday, November 22, at Nick’s Original House of Pancakes in Ann Arbor.

We started with the usual introductions of attendees, including professional background, current jobs and involvement with STC. Of this group, three are self-employed, one is an employee of another company, two are corporate employees who also do some freelancing and one is currently seeking employment. (Other attendees immediately shared some leads, including two jobs recently posted to the STC-SM listserv.) Continue reading “Ann Arbor Networking Breakfast – Recap”

Holiday Mixer

Members and Friends of STC Southeastern Michigan,

Happy Holidays! Please join us for our second annual Holiday Mixer event with Michigan CHI and Michigan UxPA. This is a great opportunity to network and learn (and to get in the holiday spirit) with our colleagues in related professional organizations.

Eat, drink, network, mingle, and learn how to make better Wireframes!

When: Tuesday, December 10, 6:00 – 9:00 PM

Where: Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant

318 South Main St., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

Map

Registration:

* CHI, UxPA, or STC Member: $12.00
* Full-time Students: $7.50
* All Others: $20.00

Register / Details

Schedule

6:00 – Check in / Eat, Drink, Network and Mingle (Light hors d’oeuvres will be served; beverages will be available for purchase. Happy Hour prices in effect until 7pm)
7:00 – Presentation
8:00 – Eat, Drink, Network and Mingle (yes.more!)
9:00 – Supposed to be done (but you may stay much longer if you like)

Presentation

3 Ridiculously Simple Weird Old Tricks for Making Better Wireframes

In this short talk, a veteran shares his tips on how to make good wireframes with techniques that transcend the tools. Regardless of whether you are using Axure or a whiteboard, there are important best practices to follow when it comes to the process of communicating your design ideas as a wireframe. Along the way he’ll also talk about why he votes “no” on the question of “are wireframes dead?” which has been posed in many articles and conferences over the years.

About the Speaker

Chris Farnum has been doing IA and UX design for 15+ years. In 2009, he (re)joined the UX team at ProQuest, where he is part of an Agile user experience team designing the ProQuest search interface. Formerly, Chris was a Senior Information Architect at Enlighten, where he collaborated with multidisciplinary teams to create meaningful user experiences for brand sites such as TCS and Pittsburgh Paints. Chris got his start as an IA at Argus Associates after working as a reference librarian in a public library.

Brought to you by

The Michigan Chapters of ACM SIGCHI and UxPA, and the Southeastern Michigan Chapter of STC

We encourage you to preregister for this event to ensure smooth check-in and quick access to all of the festivities of the evening.

Register NOW!

World Usability Day 2013

Written by Tom Glennan

The late Associate Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court Potter Stewart was famously quoted, while trying to decide a case before the Court, that while he could not precisely define pornography, “I know it when I see it” (Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964). I have often felt the same way when it comes to understanding what makes for good website design, in all its aspects (not that it’s necessarily pornographic, but rather that I know it better than I can define it). So I really enjoyed and appreciated the topic of the November 14th World Usability Day in Detroit presentation, “The real usability of Healthcare.gov.” Co-organized by STC/SM, along with Michigan CHI and the User Experience Professionals Association, this session really went a long way in helping me understand the features and factors that help make a website good by making it more usable.

The speaker for the morning session, Dave Mitropoulos-Rundus, currently wears many hats as the president of Michigan CHI, the user experience architect at Quicken Loans, the principal member of Clear Usability, LLC, and director of the annual Internet User Experience conference. He has a vast amount of experience and expertise in the field of usability and in making the onsite experience more user friendly. And he made it clear that the focus of his presentation was not to berate the government for the list of problems and frustrations people are experiencing with the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) website (that, apparently, is the news media’s job). Rather, his intent was to discuss the elements of good website design, and then use the ACA website as an example of how these elements were or were not implemented, and how they could be improved upon. To that end, Dave did a great job of making the concept of usability and great Web design come alive for me.

After identifying the overall elements of website usability, and its four primary contributors (usability requirements, best practices, reviews, and testing), Dave discussed the importance of understanding the audience who will be using the website (in the example, the users are health care providers, patients and caregivers), with respect to their needs and expectations. Dave then showed how the principles of good design and usability could have been better applied to the creation and rollout of the ACA site, and how the proper incorporation of email and Web links are all part of the online user experience. These practical applications and examples were what I really enjoyed most, because I always appreciate seeing real, pragmatic uses of the concepts and ideas discussed. The presentation concluded with Dave’s list of lessons learned, including the need to provide an obvious path and progression (navigation), to be consistent in the presentation of information and material, and to make the appearance of the website simple and clean while providing only the necessary information.

I thoroughly enjoyed not only the material presented, but Dave’s insight, energy and passion for the principles and application of good usability. His passion was infectious and I came away with a better appreciation of the need for good website design. And it didn’t take a Supreme Court ruling to make it happen!

Networking Breakfast in Ann Arbor

We’ve heard from many of you that you can’t get away for lunch, but would be interested in attending a breakfast event, so that’s what we’re offering this month.

If you can join for any part of that time, we’d love to have you. We’ll use the time to get to know one another and talk about our roles as technical communicators. As usual with our casual networking events, each attendee is responsible for purchasing his or her food and beverage, but the conversation is FREE.

Please respond if you’re planning to come so we can plan for enough seating, however, registration is not required. If you find at the last minute that you can attend, walk-ins are more than welcome!

When: Friday, November 22, 2013, from 7:00–8:30 a.m.

Where: Nick’s Original House of Pancakes, 3030 Lohr Circle, Ann Arbor

Cost: Whatever you choose to spend on breakfast

Directions: Take I-94 to the AnnArbor-Saline Road exit. Head south (away from town and the stadium) on Ann Arbor-Saline Road, and take the first left onto Lohr Road (the Meijer turn). The next left is Lohr Circle, and Nick’s is right around the bend.

World Usability Day

The Real Usability of Healthcare.gov:
Successes, issues, and improvements for this website as an example for all websites whose objective is to capture a broad range of visitors.

When and Where:
Thursday November 14, 2013
9:00-10:30am
15th Floor Auditorium, Compuware building
1050 Woodward Ave. (or One Campus Martius)
Detroit, MI 48226

Brought to you by:
The Michigan Chapter of ACM SIGCHI
The Southeastern Michigan Chapter of STC
The Michigan UxPA

A World Usability Day Event in the “D” (Detroit)
(one of many events that will be held worldwide on this day

Abstract
Usability is vitally important to many areas of the healthcare industry. The user population can broadly be divided into health care professionals, health care administrators, and consumers with no medical training. This talk will outline what is important for these various “user groups”, hone in on what is important for the growing group of “Consumer” users, and do a deep-dive on www.healthcare.gov, which has been in the media for much of this year,

Crescendo-ing…er …“Crash-scendo-ing”…in early October.

This talk will focus on the usability aspects of heathcare.gov. Attendees will walk away with not only a deep understanding of what did and did not work with the site as it rolled out in early October, but with recommendations relevant to anyone who is a stakeholder for a company or organization who needs their website and other customer touch points to be inviting and promote successful use for a very broad range of visitors.

About the Speaker
Dave Mitropoulos-Rundus has made his career designing products to fit people. He has designed physical, visual, and auditory user interfaces for hand-helds, kiosks, web sites, production machines, and automobiles, and has conducted user research in the lab, on the web, in the field, on the phone, in cars, and in the homes of consumers. Dave has held user experience consulting, sales, and management positions in both corporations and in consulting groups including OnStar by General Motors, Eastman Kodak, Compuware, and ForeSee. He is currently the User Experience Architect at Quicken Loans, Principal of Clear Usability, LLC, and Director of the annual Internet User Experience conference.

Schedule
8:30 Check-in opens
9:00 Opening Remarks
9:10 Presentation
10:10 Q&A
10:20 Done

Registration
The registration fee for this event is only $5. You must pre-register online no later than 6:00pm on Tuesday November 12, 2013 (this will allow us to plan numbers, prepare access badges, and coordinate with building security to smoothly get you to the auditorium on time). Register here. Parking We suggest parking in the Compuware parking garage (see map for visitor entrance), which is across Farmer St. (and attached via walkway) to the Compuware building where the event will be held. Parking for up to 2 hours is $10.

Brought to you by
The Michigan Chapter of ACM SIGCHI
The Southeastern Michigan Chapter of STC
The Michigan UxPA

Welcome back!

Tom Glennan

As the incoming president of the STC/Southeastern Michigan (STC/SM) chapter, I’d like to welcome all of our members and other technical communication professionals to the 2013-2014 program year. With a new chapter leadership team in place and continued support from many of our long-serving volunteers, I’m really excited and looking forward to the many opportunities and services we plan to offer to the technical communication community in southeastern Michigan.

At our combination “Welcome Back!” program and council meeting on Wednesday, September 25 on the campus of Lawrence Tech in Southfield, all of the chapter officers and volunteer leaders had the opportunity to discuss their goals and plans for the coming year. I gave a brief presentation on my vision for our chapter, which focuses on establishing STC/SM as “our local STC home for networking, education, and camaraderie.” This also happens to be our “tagline” for our website, which is in the process of being redesigned for a fresher look and improved usability (check it out at http://www.stc-sm.org). Specifically, I plan to work with the chapter officers and volunteers to:
• Complete and submit our 2013-2014 budget to STC by October 31 (almost three weeks ahead of schedule)
• Increase membership by 15 percent (not-yet-members, please feel free to help us reach this goal)
• Plan and conduct at least seven program meetings/events
• Complete the launch of our redesigned website
• Revive and implement a scholarship awards program

Our new vice president, Pat Martz, who has also graciously agreed to continue in her role as chapter Webmaster and champion-of-all-things-Web-based, gave an overview of the work on the website that she and Pam Finger, a student in LTU’s technical and professional communication graduate program, have completed and are still working on. We’re all very excited about the work that has been completed to date, and are anxiously looking forward to the improvements that are yet to come.

Mary Jo David, a chapter member whom many of you know as past president (and wearer of various other volunteer hats), has jumped in to help us with our membership recruitment and retention efforts with considerable research and investigation into the needs of our members, and the services, resources and opportunities they are looking for from STC and STC/SM. Mary Jo is also spearheading a new series of informal networking lunches (or breakfasts or happy hours) throughout the southeast Michigan region, and already successfully conducted one such luncheon in Plymouth, Michigan on October 9. More such events are in the planning stages for the near future, so check our website frequently for upcoming dates and locations.

Lisa Veasey, another long-time member who has served the chapter in both elected and volunteer positions, has graciously offered to help with identifying ideas and topics for upcoming chapter meetings and events and working to locate and arrange for speakers on the selected topics. Our first such event is titled “Thinking Outside of the (Pizza) Box: Creative Tech Communication at Domino’s” and will be an interactive discussion of how Domino’s uses innovative and engaging technical communication to promote their many products to their customers. The meeting will be held at the offices of Thomson Reuters in Dexter, Michigan, beginning with registration and networking at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, October 29. Lisa is also working on a host of other ideas and speakers for future events, so keep checking the STC/SM website for more details as they become available.

I could tell you about even more ideas that we have for making STC/SM your “local STC home,” but it would be much more fun to do so in person or one on one. So feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] or, better yet, plan on attending an upcoming STC/SM program meeting, networking lunch or other event so we can discuss together how to best move our chapter forward.

Looking forward to seeing each of you at an STC/SM event soon,
Tom Glennan
STC/SM President

Chapter networking lunch a success!

Written by Mary Jo David

Six people participated in the first STC-SM networking lunch of the 2013 fall season; this one was held at the Grand Traverse Pie Company in Plymouth on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, with an 11:30 am start time.

All attendees introduced themselves and talked about what they do on their jobs.  Four are self-employed and two are employees of other companies. The group discussed the need for single-sourcing and content management solutions, and there was also some “tool talk,” mostly about Adobe® RoboHelp®, MadCap Flare®, Adobe FrameMaker® and Microsoft® Word®.

The tools discussion led to discussing the possibility of getting some of the local tool vendor reps to participate in a panel discussion so attendees can compare and contrast tools and their benefits.  Someone also mentioned that it would be beneficial to get power users of some of these tools to participate in a panel discussion or progression meeting so others could learn from their experiences. (The chapter has done this type of program before but it was quite a while ago.)

We discussed some of the benefits of local chapter membership, and the general response was that the most important benefit of a local chapter is face-to-face communication and sharing. For example, local chapters provide opportunities to “talk shop” and discuss with other practicing communicators solutions to the problems and challenges we face on our jobs. (At that point, the discussion took on new energy when a restaurant representative appeared at the table with complimentary, snack-size pie samples!)

Attendees were told that two future networking events are in the planning stages—either lunches or breakfasts or one of each.