Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Melbourne the magnificent

Melbourne has a definite creative 'buzz'

I enjoyed a great week in Melbourne last week, attending the annual Australasian Online Documentation and Content Conference (AODC) run by Tony Self of Hyperwrite, followed up by the Business Mastery Secrets event run by Marc Dussault of Jay Abraham Asia Pacific.

I stayed at the wonderful Rendevous Hotel in Flinders street and then stayed on for a couple of days at my sister's place in Fitzroy. Melbourne is such an incredible, friendly city. I always have an awesome time when I go there.

One of the reasons why I wanted to attend AODC this year is because I wanted to see how Microsoft have changed the way they present online help in Windows Vista, and how that will affect me as a help author.

Microsoft have gone from one extreme to the other. For years they followed a minimalist model, presenting what they hoped was JUST the minimum information a user required to get the job done.

(Side note: What's the number one thing users want when they go into help? To get out!)

The problem however has been that they often didn't give enough information.

Now in Vista, they have reams and reams of text that people will need to wade through.


Even though the Vista help is well written, I know from personal usability testing that if people don't see something that immediately answers their question, then they will close the Help and ask someone else.

I believe the help model we're using at the fine-software-company I work for in Canberra is the better way. We give people an outline of what they might like to see (context-sensitive), then using DHTML, we display the more detailed information when a user clicks on it. That way, users are not put-off by reams and reams of text when they first open help, but they can quickly see what's relevant to them and BAM! the information they want is there.

At the Business Mastery Secrets event I met lots of people and was impressed by the caliber of the presenters and attendees.

Of the presenters, Ed Dale convinced me to finally pursue my long-held desire to apply my writing skills to a specific online project, so I will be pursuing that and many other web site projects as the year progresses.

Of the attendees, I was pleased to meet Leela Cosgrove, a fellow-writer who has applied the marketing principles of Jay Abraham to her career as a writer with great success. This opened my eyes to the possibility of broadening my horizons as a writer. Thanks for the inspiration Leela!

I'll do follow-up posts about how I've applied the various lessons I learned from those conferences. There's plenty to do...

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