Kathy Savard of CA Technologies attended STC’s recent virtual conference, Technical Communication Content Strategy in the Mobile Device Age. She tweeted throughout, so Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger approached her about doing a review of the conference. As luck would have it, she had already promised her company she would review it for internal use, and she agreed to share that article with STC’s Notebook. Enjoy! (And grab a snack, it’s long!)
The mobile device age—seems innocuous enough, right? Yes, we all know about our mobile devices … smartphones, iPads, tablets, Nooks. Seems like we all have them, and kids are being exposed to these devices at a younger and younger age.
Personally, I don’t have a tablet, an e-reader, or anything like that. And I’ve only had my smartphone for the last few months. It’s been great—having so much service and convenience in the palm of your hand—awesome stuff!
But have we as technical information engineers really thought about presenting content for mobile devices? And, how on earth can we account for all the different device formats? What can we expect our content to look like—will it even be helpful for our users, or just frustrate them? Where do we even begin?
This is a new journey entirely for many of us—some of you may have already started—but for me, the journey started when I attended STC’s Virtual Conference on Content Strategy in the Mobile Device Age. This conference was intriguing, enlightening, and thought-provoking.
For me, there was a sense of urgency—how can we best provide the content our users want “from the right source on the right platform in the right media to the right people at the right time in the right channel in the right format in the right version in the right language” in this mobile device age?
In Rahel Bailie’s presentation, “Content Strategy as a Framework for Content Design”, she quotes Christian Saylor of inspireUX who describes the purpose of design as to“…help tell a story that is relevant and meaningful, regardless of time, device, or even location…” According to Rahel, “Content strategy is the repeatable processes that govern the management of content throughout the entire lifecycle.” And Sarah O’Keefe helped us to focus on how to develop content strategy in “Strategy First: Launching Successful Technical Communication Projects.” Sarah’s definition of content strategy focuses on the business: content strategy is creating, delivering, and deploying content according to the goals of your business. Marcia Riefer Johnston put our writing into perspective for this new age with her presentation “Write Tight(er): What ‘Conciseness’ Means, Why It Makes More Business Sense Today than Ever, and How to Achieve It.”
You’re saying “Yes, but we have our content strategy—we’re ready to provide our content for mobile devices—right?”
Well, maybe not. Despite having a content strategy in place, have we taken a close look at our content in the context of mobile device interaction? Will our content adapt to the device on which it is being viewed? Creating a deliverable in the different formats required for viewing it is unsustainable. Regardless of time, device, or even location—Ann Rockley’s presentation “Supporting Multiple Mobile Devices with a Unified Content Strategy,” expands on Rahel’s presentation by providing us with strategies so that our content is supported on multiple devices. Take our current content strategy and integrate a mobile device strategy—when our customers want an answer to a question or a solution to a problem, it’s available. We can’t always know which device our users will access our information from—but we can use adaptive content to plan for how our information gets presented on multiple devices.
I was in Wal-Mart recently looking to buy a memory card for our camera. Our 1 GB and 2 GB cards weren’t cutting it for recording video at our kids’ concerts. Who knew that there were different formats (SD and SDHC)? While the employee in the camera department knew that some cameras only handle one format, she couldn’t tell me specifically if my camera was one of them. My camera, only a mere three years old, was no longer sold in the store so we couldn’t physically view the specifications for the camera to see if any format would work. It was getting late and we didn’t want to waste a trip—so, Google on the smartphone came to the rescue! Search results provided a link right to the Canon site, and sure enough the 16 GB card we wanted would indeed work in the camera. I got the information I needed when I needed it and mere seconds later we were in the checkout line. I was happy because now I had the extra memory I needed, and I didn’t have to worry about it not working and then fighting my way through Christmas shoppers to return an item.
What’s the big deal with having a multiple mobile device strategy? Well, if you take a look at some statistics, it is jaw-dropping when you really see how quickly the technology is expanding and changing.
Ann Rockley provides us with some statistics:
- 38% of US cell phone users, an estimated 89 million people, accessed the Internet from their phones.
- More than 47 million US mobile users accessed the Internet daily.
- Combined shipments of smartphones and tablets exceeded that of PCs in 2011.
- 60% of time spent on smartphones comprises new activities.
- Global mobile data traffic is expected to grow to 26 times its current volume over the next five years.
- There are 5.3 billion mobile subscribers worldwide (77% of the world population) with growth led by China and India.
In sub-Saharan Africa there are no ‘big screens’, so half of all web access there is using a mobile device. It’s so much easier and cheaper to use the Internet on a phone rather than an expensive desktop or laptop computer.
In Charles Cooper’s presentation “It’s a Mobile World, We Just Live in It—Learning about the Best Device for Your Content” he confirms Ann Rockley’s strategy about implementing a Unified Content Strategy:
- What do you want to do? There are many methods of ‘publishing’ your content.
- What do you want to publish—and on what device?
Cooper offered his insight about what mobile means—for example, resizing visuals is not the solution to mobile delivery! For those of us who are new to mobile content delivery, we need to know what are the advantages and disadvantages of the different mobile formats? Cooper provides some great information with use-cases and technical tips to achieve your strategy.
Both Jean Kaplansky and Joshua Tallent discussed working with eBooks. Jean’s presentation “Curious Why Your eBooks or Apps Look Great and Work Great on Barnes and Noble Nook, but Not Kobo Books, Devices and Apps?” described some of the myths that mix in with reality. She did a great job exposing the myths about eBooks, along with some helpful tips for providing your content in eBook format. Joshua’s presentation “Reflowable and Fixed Layout Files in Kindle and iBooks” also discussed common myths about what does and doesn’t work. He helped us understand how standard reflowable eBook files and fixed layout files work with the Kindle ecosystem and in the Apple iBook application.
So you see there’s a lot happening—technology and user expectations are changing in this swirling mobile world. Now that I’ve attended this conference, where does my journey lead? I have a to-do list.
- Build on the content strategy in place at my company and brainstorm strategies for our mobile device future. Mobile device content isn’t about cramming more content in—let’s learn to manage it.
- Work with my customer-facing colleagues in Support, Education, Services—what are they seeing at customer sites? Are they seeing customers use iPads, iPhones, other devices to get product information? Are customers asking for mobile content? Are they complaining about the lack of mobile content?
- Should we implement Google Analytics to review the content that our customers are viewing and downloading?
- Network with our colleagues—what are others doing? What works, what doesn’t?
- Our customers—engage them, join product user communities; ask questions, offer and ask for feedback and be an open channel for ideas and suggestions.
- Actively participate with your development teams—be the voice for our customers and don’t be afraid to make suggestions.
Of course, my to-do list isn’t static. I’ll be revisiting this list frequently. Mobile device content can’t be static so why should my to-do list be any different—after all, it is a mobile world!
Kathy Savard is a Senior Technical Information Engineer at CA Technologies. She is based out of the Portsmouth, NH office and is currently writing for the CA Infrastructure Management products. She attended the Technical Communication Content Strategy in the Mobile Device Age Virtual Conference and looks forward to helping her team implement the key strategies from this training.