As the soap! the best content conference last year did not happen, and this year won’t happen as well. I decided to dust off and publish my notes from the 2019 conference. I chose presentations about three topics: accessibility, translatability, and microcontent. Make sure to check soap! 2022 theme on their official website and read my notes from the 2018th edition.
soap! 2019: How to make your content more accessible
Kama Jania – Senior UX Designer at Objectivity (then Polidea), Poland
Kama starts her presentation with a statement that design is a continuous operation. Your decisions affect the life of your users. It is good to engage target users in your design research to better match their needs. Eliminate all barriers and those related to disabilities. The goal is to focus on how users interact with your product.
What is accessibility?
Accessibility in the physical world is the degree to which an environment is usable by as many people as possible. In many countries, public spaces must be inclusive by law. Most rules haven’t yet caught up with the new media and web or mobile app.
What is universal design?
Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people without adaptation or specialization. And the distinction between universal design and accessible design is subtle but essential. The accessible design considers the needs of people with disabilities. For example, accessible design animate results in a building having a wheelchair map attached. It’s far side as an afterthought it might not be convenient for people using wheelchairs, and it’s unlikely to be used by people who find it faster to use stairs, but at least there is some form of access.
Improvements we can provide are multi-leveled and varied. In different ways, we all have physical abilities, some of which are superior to others. You probably don’t think of yourself as differently-abled if you wear glasses. But what if you’re inside, and the temperature drops a couple of degrees? In that case, you may unexpectedly require additional assistance. Your ability is limited for a while when you break your arm or leg or when you have an infection.
And you’ve probably experienced the situation where you’re carrying a shopping bag, and someone grabs two with something urgent. You were unable to respond or were on a bustling street when your mother called. Because you couldn’t hear her, this is a situational impairment; therefore, disabilities are more common than you might think.
It is worth noticing that language changes and people have begun to use the phrase “has a disability” instead of “has a disability is an ability.” [Marek]: I prefer to use the term “differently-abled.”
It’s important to remember that accessibility is always a collaborative effort. It is not the responsibility of a single left-handed developer who will fix all issues before a page or app going live. Above all, people with disabilities have the same desires and habits as everyone else and the same emotional reactions and preferences. It is much easier to design a design that includes everyone, and Kama presents a series of good practices that can help you in future work.
soap! 2019: Making your content more translatable
Marcelina Haftka – technical writer at SoftwarePlant, Poland
A good plan is the key!
To make it more manageable for translations, you can first plan it to be translatable. Some screenshots to provide context would be helpful.
I’d need a screenshot in my language, and I’m not familiar with Russian clinicians, so metadata for keywords will be required. Those are the kinds of stuff that get lost in the workflow, and you should think about them before you start working.
Money, money, money
The second step is to prepare for translation not just in your budget but also in your workflow. It’s typically really costly to translate things when they’re going global, mainly if there are five languages involved.
The author’s biggest initiative was about 60 languages, so if you prepare and plan correctly, you can count the zeros while multiplying the content by 60 languages. You can potentially reduce the cost of localization by around 10-15%. Now, you may say, “Oh, 10% isn’t much,” but I’m telling you, when you have thousands and thousands of pounds, you can recover well 10%, so it makes sense to think about it now that you’re working on it.
Include them all
Include translators, localizers, and graphic designers in your workflow, even if it’s not immediately apparent. You may not need as much time because you have a large amount of content, but you may have some base that will not be translated at all, for example.
Context is the king
Suppose you ordered your translation from a freelancer or an outsourcing service used by a large or small agency. In most cases, they won’t have the opportunity to ask you a question. If you just send some strings, they will try to inquire, “What is the context?” and there are two types of clients. One will say: use your best judgment. Other clients agree to provide context, so you should be able to do it. You can either write a currency price slash period after the council at any time, or you can have the whole complex right now. The translator is relieved because he or she now knows what to do with the information.
It is insufficient to claim that we will copy and paste everything. If your translator isn’t sure whether you’re targeting the whole range of systems or just Windows, iOS, or anything else, tell them. They will either be unable to interpret it accurately or will translate it. They not sure whether I use Android or not. So, as simple as that, they’ll convert it into their mobile, and your user will be an Apple user. They think I understand it, but there’s a flaw: that you didn’t think about it all because they’re placed your Android translations into this insignificant string number. Make sure you specify the requirements. The more direct your message to your user and translator is, the better your transfer trip!
Follow the guidelines
If you have any guidelines, please include them with your translation and make them mandatory for all participants in your translation and localization workflow. We must adhere to them, and it will be of great assistance to us in using proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. In your code, remember to use commas or semi-colons. It’s crucial to maintain a strict word order. Your readers are often not native speakers when writing in English, and your translators are not native speakers. They could interpret something differently, mainly if you use a lot of adjectives. It’s not always straightforward when you have words that can be both nouns and verbs.
Apply some styles
Because you avoid odd formatting, the styles are much better. When you use style files, you avoid some things that aren’t obvious to translators. They understand your topic, where your header is, and what you’re writing about—keeping track of the locations.
Keep in mind that your date may be in a different format than your measurements, and your measurement units may be in another form as well. Consider leaving some space to allow for the possibility of changing the order of words or the use of currencies.
soap! 2019: Micro-content, Chatbots, and Machine Learning in Technical Authoring
Mike Hamilton – VP Product Evangelist at MadCap Software, USA
What is micro-content?
Mr. Jacob Nielsen, a usability expert, has been credited not with inventing micro-content but with being the first to recognize that it is going to be essential. He described it as short content like headlines that need to be immediately apparent and inviting but still make sense when removed from their original context and he was the first to identify that this is going to be essential.
If we take all of this and distill it down, what he said was that micro-content conveys a single concept through an easily accessible link and its content is written for any reuse possibility. Mr. Bosworth defined it as short-form content, which is typically low-cost and high-value. What does Mr. Bosworth do? He works in marketing. As a result, a word of caution: micro-content can mean a lot of different things to different people.
Two directions of micro-content
There is public micro-content, and by that I don’t mean it isn’t covered. It’s a kind of micro-content that can be used by any external device. This micro-content by Google or other search engines is used by any device to scan the page by interactive voice devices. Then there’s private micro-content, which isn’t really protected by a firewall. It may still be on the Internet, but it’s built to operate through a single framework, similar to how the chat bonds and artificial intelligence systems are designed to solve problems for specific consumers in specific situations, which is why micro-content is so difficult to define; it’s developing in various ways, and now there’s one more idea before a very straightforward description.
Joe is getting ready to go to work. Should Joe wear his jacket? Joe has this tiny decision to make, similar to the hundreds of decisions we all make every day, and this has been referred to as a micro-moment.
Every day, we are all confronted with hundreds of these micro-moments, and the best description of micro-content are the answers to micro-moments solved by micro-content.
Answer to issues well by micro-content
What do I mean when I say “well” without mentioning micro-content? Joe could go to his computer, boot it up, open a web browser, type in a URL, navigate to The Weather Channel, type in his city, and find out whether it’s going to rain or if it’s going to be sunny, but that’s a lot of work, or Joe could just look at his phone and a lot of modern phones have a micro-content widget. I need my jacket today, so pull up my cell, the micro-moment was over.
There is an issue with this. It’s probably best if we get rid of the American Fahrenheit. We need the content suitable to our local needs. There’s one more thing to consider, and many people are uninformed about micro-content. Where did that come from? Nobody wrote unique content for that phone. All of the information is now available on The Weather Channel’s website. Even, certain aspects have specific metadata, so the phone simply queried the metadata and pulled the micro-content, obviating the need for a separate room for writers to write the micro-content.
When we talk about public micro-content, it’s generally very specific information sourced from a more comprehensive resource. We normally don’t want to write custom micro-content in a public environment; instead, it should be extracted from other established content sources and solve a micro-moment, as we discussed earlier. It is, however, adaptable in terms of delivery and could be shown on a tablet. Alexa may be able to tell you that, but it’s just information gleaned from a fragment of the source material.
However, the most important feature is that it is built to be accessible to external systems. Any external system can help pull that information and use it once The Weather Channel has added the micro-content metadata. So that’s an example of micro-content in action. Private micro-content, such as that found in chatbots and automated response systems, is still highly targeted material, but it’s been pre-written to answer unique customer needs or concerns.
It’s still about solving the micro-moment, so it’s typically about a commodity or service, and it always necessitates some reasoning because the consumer isn’t sure what they’re wondering. How do I do X, by the way? This system, on the other hand, will be forced to react in the same way they would. Do you have a Mac or Windows computer? It could be necessary to make a formal request for further details.
On the private side, a lot of micro-content is written specifically for the chatbot or the answer system, okay, so that’s sort of the backstory to distill it all down to me. A micro-moment is solved by material alone.
I told you I’d give you stuff you should take home and wear on Monday, like a fancy coat. Yes, we’ll do it eventually, but it’s not the place to start, particularly on the public side. Begin by learning the basics. The better your long-form content is written, the easier it will be to add the metadata to support micro-content. If you have proper summaries, appropriate headings, it lends itself to creating micro-content, the better the authoring in the first place, the easier it is.
Future – the coffee machine
I’m going to start with the past and work my way forward. We’ll see who’s as old and nerdy as me. Oh, that’s a terrible picture, but it’s the best you can get at this resolution. This photograph dates from the 1980s. Is that a familiar image to anyone? Someone has to be OK, right? Now I see a few hands. This is the world’s first picture from a webcam, according to the credit given to it. It isn’t true because the internet did not exist at the time. This occurred prior to the internet, in a Cambridge University computer lab.
A computer science student working on a floor used to have to walk down a corridor and up a flight of stairs to get a cup of coffee from the break room. They were fed up with going all the way down only to discover the coffee machine was empty. As a result, they labored to build the world’s first webcam to check if there was coffee. They also mention that they have custom computer software that they used to build an address system before the Internet existed. It had been a lengthy procedure.
How does this relate to micro-content? Consider now, consider the Internet of Things, and consider how quickly we might write a script. They could examine this picture, and we could get coffee if the levels in the green area are acceptable. If the stories in the yellow zone are true, we must act quickly before anyone else wins the Cup. We’ll just sit in our office and wait for someone else to make fresh coffee if it’s in the red zone. That script could then send micro-content to an unknown address, which could now appear on my phone, so I believe micro-content has a lot of potential there.
Chatbots are a convenient way of communicating with others. Consider how much public micro-content could be used to address thousands of mundane micro-moments on the Internet of Things. In conclusion, we developed a micro-content concept and a short approach, so in the future, if you want to solve micro-moments, micro-content would be useful.