Brian Harris is a technical author who has been attempting to make software more comprehensible to the average person on the street for almost ten years. He has been at Red Gate since April 2007. In a previous life he'd rather forget, he was once an English teacher, having graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English literature during the last recession, with no clue what to do with the rest of his life.
Developers of software that is used in the office need to be aware of what Games Developers are doing to make the learning of games intuitive. Games don't require you to read a manual or engage in training. Maybe Office software should inveigle the users into a gentle pedagogical experience so that they fully exploit the potential of the software without having to read screeds of instructions. The only question is how....… Read more
Application Developers and designers often seem addicted to playing video games. Is this wasted time? Perhaps not, if they are quick to learn from the game that there must be no blind alleys in software, you must always provide a way of making progress, and that users of tools don't want to use software particularly, they need to get a job done.… Read more
Historically, the profession of "technical author" emerged from the nascent aerospace and technology industries following the war, and brought with it a military-style rigidity of approach to standards and formality. But documenting (and putting words into) software in 2008 is very different from documenting the wiring of a cockpit in a fighter jet in 1952; perhaps we need to relax more... and be more like Google.… Read more
Our overriding goal at Red Gate is to make our software more usable by "doing whatever works". That means to do whatever users are most likely to instinctively understand. As we analyse and consider every use of language in our applications, this sometimes leads me as a writer to ask the following question:… Read more
As a Technical Author, one of the most important tasks that you face is to make the language of applications as obvious, intuitive and accessible as possible. Google's approach to language attempts to do this AND to reflect its overall ethos - that it's homely and easy and accessible to all. Brian is pondering whether this is a general trend, and how he can apply it.… Read more
We asked Brian for a description of the Help System for the software he's working on and ends up quoting Blake's poetry, discussing town criers, Ziggurats, security guards and the BRAD signal.… Read more