Book Review: Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps, 2nd Edition

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Joe Welinske, of WritersUA, is something of a guru when it comes to developing Help for mobile devices. In this second edition of Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps, Joe has completely revised it with 300 new pages and 22 new chapters. It also includes 400 illustrations of Help patterns used in apps such as Google Earth, Verizon, and WebMD, along with Joe’s comments about each.

Technical communicators will benefit greatly from reading this book. For those who play a UX role, and even for those who don’t, it is an expertly written and thorough examination of the emerging tools (such as simulation software) and techniques (such as coach marks and embedded Help) used to develop mobile UA. The book also provides information about working with UI text, writing for small-screen interfaces, applying touch language to UA, voice technology, single-sourcing, and other aspects of mobile technology.

This isn’t a quick start guide, it’s more of an engaging textbook, and is well worth keeping nearby as a handy reference. Or, use it to show others in your organization which Help design is best for your mobile app.

Joe Welinske has been involved with software documentation since 1984, specializing in the area of user assistance. He has served as president of the Puget Sound Chapter of STC for two terms, and regularly provides featured talks at other chapters of the Society for Technical Communication.

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You can buy the printed version of the book on Lulu. It is also available through Amazon. The website for the book offers full-color versions of all the images and live links to all the resources.

Words on a Website: Microcopy

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microcopyimageThe words used on a website are becoming increasingly important, especially when it comes to the user experience. Words set the tone, voice, and brand personality of a site. It’s not just where the words are placed and how they are displayed, but what they actually say. This is called “microcopy.”

Microcopy is the smallest bits of copy in a web interface. It’s the label on a form field, a tiny piece of instructional text, or the words on a button. Microcopy is contextual. It can deliver the right message at the right time and place. It can answer a specific question and address concerns people might have. It’s powerful because it affects the information flow of a website.

The little words and phrases that make up microcopy can add personality to a brand. For example, if you fill out a form incorrectly, the error message you get when you click Submit might say something like: “Oops, looks like you forgot to add your first name.” It’s a lot more friendly than “Invalid field.” The message should provide enough detail so people know exactly what to do, but not so much detail that the information is difficult to process. You don’t want to risk confusing users as they try to accomplish something. Keep it short and sweet.

Another example is the words on a signup button. Rather than saying “Sign Up,” you could say “Sign Up for Free.” By adding just two more little words, users might be more likely to join the site. In addition, the sentence above the button might say “You can unsubscribe at any time.” This microcopy is both informative and reassuring, alleviating concerns of potential customers.

So, think about what those little words on a website mean to the people who use it. You want their experience with the site to be a positive one.