What is “Docs as Code?”

“Docs as Code” means managing technical documentation in the same way developers would manage their code. Let me explain in simple terms what a typical software development process is. First, developers write code using a text editor and commit it to the version control system to share it with members and receive any version changes. Then, the lead developer reviews and merges the code. Finally, they build and release the finalized code. Technical writers can apply this software development process to technical documentation using the same tools as developers. 

Docs as Code tools

You will need the following components for technical documentation:

  • Text files: Files where your contents exist. It is common to write the content in Markdown format
  • Text editor: Software used to write code/content, equivalent to Microsoft Word in the non-dev world. Atom or Sublime is recommended for beginners. 
  • Version control and collaboration tool: The system that will be used to track the changes in the files. Git is currently the most popular. 
  • Static site generator: A static site generator is necessary for converting text files into HTML format for publishing. Jekyll or Hugo are commonly used for this operation.  

In practice: How it works with Docs as Code tools

Here is the common process for Docs as Code: 

  1. Write your content in a plain text format (Markdown, etc.) using a text editor. 
  2. Commit the content and its changes to Git. 
  3. Your reviewer will find your commit and merge your branch if it is accepted. 
  4. Put the final text file in the static site generator to change your content into HTML format. 
  5. When the review processes are completed, you can deploy the docs to the target, cloud, or server.  

Why Docs as Code is rewarding for technical writers

Taking a non-dev role in a software company is challenging but beneficial at the same time. 

Follow the same review process as the developers using Git

Developers use the Git system to submit their code and changes, which are reviewed by their co-workers before being accepted to be merged into the master code branch by the lead engineer. This is the key review process that helps maintain the quality and uniformity of the code for the product. The same goes for technical writers. With Docs as Code, technical writers do not need to ask for explanations or alert everyone to changes, but can instead catch modifications through the code review process in Git. 

Easy sync with the product and version tracking

Using collaborative documentation editors such as wikis or Confluence to track versions and contents for every update takes time and effort in practice. But by having Docs as Code, we can have the documentation live right along with the code, and it makes technical contents sync with the product more easily compared to an independent documentation system. 

Writers and developers integrated within the product team

Using the same tools as developers helps the team work more efficiently. If your product is just a simple version of hosted web pages, then this might not sound attractive. But highly complex products need a large amount of extensive documentation. This eventually requires developers and writers to not only contribute to documentation cooperatively, but also review each other’s changes. Docs as Code will help both parties feel like they are on the same team. 

Professional growth

The acquisition of these skills will be of greatest benefit to you as a writer in the long run. If there are writers who write content directly as part of the product codes and writers who write well, who would you hire if you were the company owner?

Summary

Are you worried about learning Docs as Code tools? The effort required to learn these tools is much less than learning a new human language. (And I know most technical writers are geniuses at learning new languages). I am confident that the results will provide you with more than just personal career growth. 

Interested in being a writer in the IT field? Find more articles here, Certifications for Technical Writers Transitioning Into the (IT) Field

APIs are widespread in the internet ecosystem. This article discusses why API documentation is so crucial and how you can become an API technical writer.

Internet applications are rarely standalone. They are connected to other applications offering different types of services. These behind-the-scenes applications are not always visible to the users. The building blocks of these interactions are APIs, or “Application programming interfaces.” Their number has grown tremendously in the past years, according to this analysis from ProgrammableWeb.

APIs enable communication between two systems: 

  1. The first application provides a service. This application exposes its service on the internet through a technical interface: the API.
  2. The second application, the “client,” is interested in the service provided and will use the API to access it. 

For example, the API can be an interface to a payment service. The second application can be an e-commerce store using this API to enable online payments for their customers.

Why Is API Documentation Key?

Software developers on the client side rely mainly on the technical documentation, describing how to code correctly the “calls” made to the API. Good quality API documentation is critical to ensure the adoption of the API by new clients and to make it easy to use. According to the 2021 “State of the API” report from Postman:

  • Documentation is the fourth parameter taken into account when wanting to use an API.
  • Documentation is the number one pain point when using an API.

So if you are a technical writer interested in breaking into the internet industry, writing API documentation is a fundamental skill to have. 

How to Start

Firstly, you need to know the basics of technical writing. It includes the following skills:

  • writing in a controlled and straightforward language,
  • structuring documentation in a clear and meaningful manner,
  • following standards such as applying a style guide or respecting a legal framework.

If you are not familiar with technical writing, following a course on this topic can be beneficial to get started. You can look into this free technical writing course by Google. This resource is an excellent introduction to writing for a software developer’s audience. 

Then to become an API technical writer, you need to learn about the technology itself. The most popular type of API, called “REST,” is simple to get started with. To try out a REST API, you can use free tools easily accessible from a web browser. This extensive “Documenting API” course can guide you through the process. 

Creating a portfolio to showcase your experience can benefit you when applying to API technical writer jobs. While you are learning, you can write samples of documentation. For this purpose, you can do the following:

  • Write your own version of documentation of a publicly available API that you can test without being a paying customer.
  • Contribute to an open-source project needing an API technical writer to create documentation.

If you want to go deeper and pursue an academic degree in technical writing, TCLoc online master’s program from Strasbourg University in France will spark your interest. You can learn more about the content of this career-oriented program on the curriculum page.

Whether you’re an HR consultant working on a digital learning project or a freelancer looking to start an online education business, this article will help you understand the key elements to consider when developing your own digital learning program.

According to Coursera’s Skills Index, two-thirds of the world’s population are falling behind in critical skills. As digital technologies continue to reshape industries, many businesses are embarking on digital change initiatives to maintain pace with the competition. The ability to deliver in the digital world is now more important than ever, and the pace of change and client expectations demand a new set of skills. Working professionals need to continuously upskill, developing core capabilities that include agility, technical knowledge, critical problem solving, and a set of leadership skills to thrive in complex work environments. Digital learning is the modern way of learning that enables exactly this. 

What is Digital Learning?

Digital Learning describes all types of interactive learning powered by technologies and the Internet. The Covid-19 pandemic caused learning to move online at an unprecedented degree, and it has become clear that digital learning is here to stay. Higher education institutions and companies are increasingly adopting this modern way of learning. For example, many universities and companies are developing e-learning programs to enable continuous learning, thus allowing working professionals to upskill. 

Before we dive into the key elements of a learning program and how to deliver a great online learning experience, let’s look at some of the main advantages of digital learning. 

Key Benefits of Digital Learning 

  • Cost: Online learning allows organizations to cut back on travel, accommodation, and logistic expenses.
  • Accessibility: Individuals can access courses online anytime and from anywhere. 
  • Options: There is a wide variety of available courses in terms of both content and type, ranging from short skill-based e-learning programs to fully accredited online university degrees.
  • Lifelong Learning: Online learning gives learners more control as they upskill, and it promotes continuing education.

Delivering a Quality Learning Experience 

Capturing the digital learning opportunity in an era of digitalization requires skills, digital capabilities, know-how, and collaboration. Critical factors for success when developing a learning agenda include content development, course delivery, and success evaluation metrics, as well as the necessity to keep up with an unprecedented pace of change. At the core of digital learning, organizations need to ensure that both content and user experience are engaging and relevant to the target audience. 

Key Elements of a Successful Digital Learning Program

Expectations and Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes need to be outlined clearly. Potential learners expect to understand a course’s outcomes and learning approach before investing their time and money. Therefore, it is important for organizations to inform learners of the learning outcomes and to clearly lay out expectations for the learning experience. Digital learning programs should clearly define and highlight learning objectives, and teaching methods (for example, self-paced or blended learning).   

Accreditation 

Establishing accreditation and common standards for your digital curriculum lends authenticity and validity to the course. Some organizations offer verified certificates while others provide digital badges upon completion of a course. To cite just one example, the World Economic Forum shared emerging initiatives where big organizations collaborated and developed innovative digital learning programs to prepare professionals for the future of work. Industries and universities are forming partnerships and incorporating skills-based digital credentials into learning programs. 

Content

Content should be relevant, structured, and comprehensive. Learners are looking for content to fulfill specific learning goals. Course content should therefore be skill- and outcome-based, but it should at the same time incorporate user experience design, storytelling, and interaction. Site maps, learner flows, animations, quizzes, and videos can help support learner engagement. It’s also important to regularly revise and update content as needed. In addition, complementary content that covers related skills and knowledge to the primary content is highly valuable.

Learning Tools and Systems

Decisions about authoring tools, learning delivery platforms, procurement, setup of IT infrastructure, and systems integration are key to an effective online learning delivery. When selecting authoring tools and learning management systems, consider ease of control for administration, speed of user adoption, and efficiency for all related activities. There are many different types of learning tools and systems to develop, manage, and deliver your content. Pick the right flavor for your business needs. If the infrastructure and tools are already in place, working processes with existing systems should be able to support your activities when audience outreach extends.

Teams and Processes

Deploying a digital learning initiative and maintaining the activities as you scale require a dedicated team of professionals and work processes. The capabilities and collaboration of the different working teams (IT, Marketing, Course Development and Operations) and instructors are crucial in delivering a valuable and pleasant learning experience. It’s also important to establish a strong support mechanism where learners can engage and easily reach out for guidance, questions, or issues. This may include coaching, forums, or Q&A sessions.

Conclusion

Many organizations have started embarking on the journey of developing their own digital learning hubs to enable continuous learning that allows working professionals to upskill. The increasing development of digital learning is one of the many digital transformations that is happening in the changing face of technology and businesses today. From online education to employment and business opportunities, digital learning is taking over how we learn.

Head over to the TCLoc blog to find out more on Web Technologies, and other related topics. Are you ready to embark on your very own online learning journey? The TCLoc Master’s degree is an accredited online master’s degree that combines technical communication and web technologies. 

Digital accessibility is about ensuring that all of the people that visit your website, including those with disabilities, can navigate your content without barriers and find the information they need. Read on to find out more about the basic principles of digital accessibility.

The Web is for everyone, regardless of where they live, how old they are, what language they speak, and regardless of their mental or physical abilities. However, many websites contain barriers that make them difficult to use for people with disabilities. Digital accessibility is about removing these barriers.

A number of governments around the world are increasingly recognizing the need for digital accessibility through laws and regulations, making accessibility not just an option, but a requirement for many websites. It has therefore become even more important for website creators to be aware of digital accessibility principles.

What Is Digital Accessibility?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the term “accessibility” as “the fact of being able to be reached or obtained easily” and as “the quality of being easy to understand”. Therefore, if something is “accessible” it can be used or understood freely, without any constraints.

In an ideal world, all internet users should be able to freely and easily browse the internet. Unfortunately, for many people with disabilities as well as for older internet users, the degree of accessibility for websites and apps can be very low. Any disability can have a potential impact on the user experience, ranging from minor inconveniences to the inability to use a website at all. This includes visual, motor/physical, auditive, as well as cognitive and learning disabilities. For example, as the Web is a highly visual medium, blindness and vision impairment can prevent users from being able to navigate websites and access information.

How to Make a Website Accessible

Use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Image showing tiles with access symbols.

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to promote digital accessibility and set standards that websites must fulfil in order to be labelled “accessible”. The WAI furthermore helps organizations implement digital accessibility in their websites by providing technical specifications, educational resources, and examples of good practices.

As of spring 2022, the most up-to-date version of the digital accessibility criteria is WCAG 2.1. Based on these guidelines, this article provides an overview of some general good practices to keep in mind when creating websites.

Conversely, if you already have a site and would like to know how accessible it is, you might also consider testing your website to find out its accessibility score.

Think About the Design of Your Website

The design of a website is a key component of digital accessibility. This includes the use of colors, visual elements, and layouts. Using highly contrasting colors can make content more visible to users with low vision. It is also a good practice to avoid the combination of red and green, as red/green color blindness is a common form of color blindness.

People with disabilities can use assistive technology that help them navigate the Web. One example are screen readers. Screen readers read the text on a website out loud and are therefore especially helpful for people with visual impairments. Screen readers also read image alt texts. Images and other visual elements included on a website should therefore have appropriate alt texts describing them. 

One way of quickly creating a multiple column layout on a webpage is by using tables. While these tables are invisible on the front-end, they cause difficulties to people using screen readers. Screen readers encountering a table will inform the user of the various columns and rows encountered on the page instead of simply reading the content. Using tables simply for layout purposes should therefore be avoided.

Structure Your Content and Make It Easy to Read

Another principle of digital accessibility is properly structuring web content. Screen readers can scan a page for headings and hence create an overview of a page’s content for users to orientate themselves by. However, screen readers can only identify headings if they are properly ascribed the title tags <h1>, <h2>, etc. It might be tempting to choose headings based on stylistic purposes, such as using italics to indicate a heading or skipping heading levels by going from an <h2> to an <h4>. To avoid confusing screen readers, heading levels should be strictly in order and should serve the purpose of organizing content into a logical structure.

On an accessible website, content should ideally not only be easy to navigate, but also easy to understand. This can be achieved by avoiding long and complex sentence structures and jargon and slang. When acronyms are first introduced, they should be written in full and glossaries can be provided to explain specialized terminology. Applying simplified writing techniques not only benefits people with learning disabilities, but every user visiting your site.

Take Into Account Navigation and Interactivity

Some users who cannot navigate with a mouse rely on keyboard commands to browse the internet. When creating an accessible website, it is therefore important to ensure that it can be navigated easily with a keyboard. Menus are a main axis of navigation. It should therefore be ensured that each item of the menu can be accessed with a keyboard. Some menus have a “flyout” functionality, which reveals sub-menu items through mouseover. In general, elements that are only revealed and/or clickable through mouseover should be avoided altogether. 

It is also a good idea to provide additional points of navigation, such as a sitemap and breadcrumb menus. In order to make long or complex pages accessible, “jump to” anchor links can be added to allow users to more easily navigate between content sections.

Screen readers can also be set to identify all the links on a page. It is therefore important that links be given descriptive names, as someone using a screen reader may not alway be able to read a link within its context. A link that reads “Read our FAQs” is for example more descriptive than “Click here” and will allow the user to more easily identify what they are looking for.

Towards a More Accessible Digital Future

Digital accessibility is about making sure that everyone can use websites, regardless of their physical or mental abilities. This need is also increasingly underlined by governments and it is therefore important to build websites for all users. In addition, implementing digital accessibility principles, such as highly contrasting colours and easy to understand language benefits not only people with disabilities, but improves the user experience for every user.

Would you like to learn how to create websites? Be sure to check out the TCLoc Master’s program, a distance learning master’s degree that combines technical communication and web technologies.  

This article was edited by Janna Mack.

The General Data Protection Regulation came into effect on May 25th, 2018. It is known to be one of the toughest privacy and security laws in the world. Cookie banners, privacy policies, third-party apps, plugins — you need to take all of these (and more) into consideration when you make your website GDPR-compliant.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 things you should take into account to help your website comply with GDPR.

1. Display a Cookie Banner

Cookies are small text files that are stored on your computer every time you visit a website. They collect both standard Internet log information as well as visitor behavior information. Since the implementation of the GDPR, websites must gain users’ approval in order to store cookies on their computers. To be GDPR-compliant, your cookie banner should include

  • an explanation of why cookies are necessary on your website
  • a consent button to allow all cookies
  • a button to disable all cookies
  • a button to customize which cookies can be stored on your computer (those deemed strictly necessary or all of them)

Users should be able to change their consent easily.

2. Pay Attention to Each Form on Your Website

Each existing form on your website (contact forms as well) should include a checkbox with a similar sentence as the following:

“By checking this box and validating this form, I give my consent to the processing of my personal data by (your company’s name).”

If you need the user’s consent for any additional reason on the same form, a second checkbox should be added to give consent. In addition to that, write a small paragraph under each form to explain who will keep and process the user’s data, what the user’s rights are regarding their data, and how long their data will be kept.

3. Write a Unique Privacy Policy

A privacy policy page is now a must-have for any website. You can download templates on various websites as well as on GDPR.eu to know how to properly write it. It should include

  • all the types of data your website collects and the legal reasons behind it
  • how you use and store the data
  • if the data is going to be shared to subsidiaries or third-party companies
  • the user’s data protection rights 
  • how users can ask for any data related to them

4. Third-Party Plugins and Apps

If you’re using a CMS such as WordPress, make sure that every plugin installed on your website is GDPR-compliant as they may collect user data as well. Visit the plugin’s official webpage and check if they have GDPR compliance approval.

Get rid of any plugin that isn’t GDPR-compliant and find substitutes for them. Don’t forget to update your CMS on a regular basis as well as your software and custom code, if you have any.

5. Google Analytics

Did you know that your use of Google Analytics may not be GDPR-compliant? Google has implemented a data deletion mechanism in Analytics that helps you delete data related to a specific user easily. When properly set up, it can also delete all data coming from your website after a specific amount of time. 

Google has also come up with a Data Processing agreement that you should sign with every party that has access to your website’s data. Think about updating your privacy policy when there are updates regarding Analytics.

6. Install a Firewall and Get an SSL Certificate

Some CMSs, such as WordPress, are known for not being as safe as Drupal, for example. Your website should be properly protected against cyber attacks so that the data you collect is in a safe environment. To achieve this, contact your web hosting service and ask for an SSL certificate if you don’t have one yet. Furthermore, don’t forget to install a firewall plugin, like All In One WP Security & Firewall.

7. Data Access Request Processes

You should be able to comply with any data access requests that are sent to you in a short amount of time. If that isn’t the case, you should think about implementing a thorough process in your company that will enable you to do it in a timely fashion.

Be prepared in case of a data breach. Implementing a process to alert the authorities as well as your data subjects is a top priority in order to be GDPR-compliant.

8. Appoint a Data Protection Officer

There are three specific cases in which organizations need to have an appointed Data Protection Officer (DPO):

  • The processing of personal data is done by a public body or public authorities.
  • The organization does large-scale and regular monitoring as a core activity.
  • The processing includes large-scale, special data categories.

This person needs to be an expert on all things GDPR and should monitor GDPR compliance criteria on a regular basis. Appointing a DPO outside of these cases isn’t mandatory, but it could still be useful for any company.

9. Encrypt or Anonymize Data Whenever Possible

Many third-party tools used by businesses now involve complete data encryption, whether it’s emails, messages, cloud storage, or even notes. The best case scenario would be to also find a way to do it directly on your website, but this method doesn’t come cheap. Regardless, make sure to encrypt or anonymize all data as much as possible.

10. Don’t Forget About Social Networks and Newsletters!

If your website comes with built-in social media sharing buttons, chances are that they will leave a few cookies on your users’ computers. You should mention this in your privacy policy as these third-party websites could potentially collect data. Furthermore, when you send out a newsletter to your customers, check if your mailing platform as well as your signup form are GDPR-compliant.

For further information, the official GDPR website has compiled a complete GDPR Compliance checklist. Make sure to check it out!

Was this article helpful? What kind of experience have you had with GDPR? Let us know in the comments below!

With a shortage in software developers, low-code and no-code platforms have drawn a lot of interest over the last few years. These platforms, which are very similar to e-commerce CMS platforms, were built to allow the creation of apps with little to no coding knowledge necessary. Low-code and no-code platforms are often mistaken for one another. While they both use the same “building blocks” approach, it’s important to clarify that they are two different things with different purposes.

What exactly is a Low-Code platform?

A low-code platform allows users to build web or mobile apps using a visual application system. This generally implies drag and drop processes (dragging and dropping visual blocks that have been pre-coded to model your app). Low-code, as its name suggests, still requires some development skills. This means it mostly targets professional developers or tech savvy business users with the aim of facilitating and accelerating the process by focusing on coding essential features. 

A low-code platform is a good choice for building more complex apps that have mission-critical feature needs that a no-code platform may be unable to provide while sparing developers the repetitive and time-consuming manual processes they would normally need to write when developing an app the traditional way. 

Some of the available low-code platforms are Mendix, Appian or KiSSFLOW.

What exactly is a No-Code platform?

Like a low-code platform, a no-code platform uses a visual application system that will allow the user to develop an app using drag and drop processes as well as use application functions made available by the platform. With the no-code platform, there is no coding involved. It primarily benefits business users or citizen developers who want to develop their apps without requiring any coding knowledge.

No-code platforms are best suited for basic projects that need to be delivered quickly. They happen to be an amazing tool for in-house apps! Let’s say you work in a marketing department and you would like to collect specific marketing-related data. You did your research and there is no such app available on the market. The no-code platform provides you the opportunity to generate a perfectly tailored solution, making your internal operations a lot easier. And that’s just a single example — imagine what you could do by automating manual tasks (and increasing efficiency)! Bye-bye excel sheets!

A few examples of no-code platforms are Salesforce, Airtable or Appsheet.

The Disadvantages of Low-Code and No-Code Platforms

If there are advantages, unfortunately, there are also disadvantages of using low-code and no-code platforms:

  • Flexibility — you will be limited in the customization of your apps and this can be a challenge when trying to adapt to a constantly evolving digital world. 
  • Security — without any proper supervision from professional developers, security concerns may arise. It is very important to be well informed on the platform used. Make sure to review its privacy policy, its procedures and the way it manages and handles data.

With the numerous advantages they offer, it seems both low-code and no-code platforms have a successful future ahead of them. In a recent report, Gartner predicted that low-code applications will be used for 65% of all application development activity in 2024. This could make many developers cringe! However, it is important to remember that the value of any tool is created by the person using it, meaning these platforms will not take over anytime soon. Still, their influence will be felt across many industries. Hand in hand with artificial intelligence, there is no doubt that low-code and no-code platforms will revolutionize the way we work. In the meantime, they will be a considerable asset for any developers and business users for increasing app agility, efficiency and, hopefully, for fighting against Shadow IT.

Want to learn more? Take a look at the “Low-Code vs. No-Code: What’s the Real Difference” article available at Outsystems.

Do you have experience with low-code or no-code platforms? Which ones do you prefer? What do you think about their influence on application development? Let us know in the comments!

For more articles, feel free to visit our blog!

Due to rapid advances in technology, big data has become a hot topic. Everybody is talking about it. What is it? Is it dangerous? How can it change the way we perceive the world?

What is big data?

A few years ago, our colleagues from the TCLoc master’s program met with Professor Gauthier Vasseur from Stanford University to hear his take on big data and its implications. In general, big data refers to an accumulation of data that is too large and complex for processing by traditional database management tools. It, therefore, requires new systems, technology, and processes in order to organize and use all the individual data points.

Although big data has become a trendy new term, few people have more than a vague understanding of what it really is or what it means. Beyond its basic definition, people also want to know about its effects. Is it dangerous? What is its purpose? How can we analyze and process the huge amounts of data being collected each day? One thing is for sure, though: humans are producing unimaginable quantities of data. 

You may not realize it, but every time you send a tweet on Twitter, check-in at your local pizzeria on Foursquare, or like a review on Amazon, you are producing and providing data to these companies. According to Forbes, we produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day. Each of these data points can be sorted and stored for future use, or even sold. But why would a company want to buy data?

The impact of big data

What is big data used for?

Some people I talked with recently told me they are afraid of big data. They consider it as some form of  Big Brother from the famous book “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by Georges Orwell. Sure, data brokers (a person or a company whose business is to gather, process, and sell data) do exist, but mostly they do it for marketing purposes. Often, companies that buy data want to use it to find out how to better reach their target audience. Also, in a vast majority of cases, companies use our data in order to change or improve their products and make the user experience more friendly or more efficient.

Big data stimulates economic growth

In today’s market, if there is an investment to make in Silicon Valley, it will surely be in companies that work with big data. Data farming companies have made hundreds of billions of dollars since they first appeared in the early 2000s, and we have barely scratched the surface of the opportunities data provides us with. For instance, self-driving cars will be able to predict where and when traffic jams will form and avoid them entirely. The healthcare industry will be able to monitor each one of our vitals and foresee any medical complications that we might face. In fact, the healthcare industry is one of the domains that can profit the most from big data analytics.

Big data creates job opportunities

Data is useless without analytics and processing. Therefore, we need software that can take care of that for us, like Hadoop. Developing such solutions requires programmers and engineers, which means more job opportunities. This is a positive impact of big data on society. Before big data, nobody referred to themselves as a data officer or a data miner, yet jobs like these exist today and are continuing to grow. Admittedly, the revolution that big data and artificial intelligence bring will mark the end of certain kinds of jobs, but it will also create new ones. For example, are Google’s Pixel Buds going to replace interpreters? Although this may happen to some extent, interpreters could then be hired to work on such projects in order to help design and improve these new technologies. A whole world to create and conceive, isn’t it exciting?

So, ultimately, will the impact of big data be good or bad on society? Only time will tell. It is here, however, and it will certainly play an important role in the years to come. As the world becomes more and more interconnected, we need to embrace technological innovations and jump towards that new future with a bit of faith! If you want to read more on the subject, check out this article on the TCLoc master’s website: Will AI lead to the development of a new form of (universal) language, and therefore, to a new conception of the world? Also, don’t forget to let us know what you think about big data in the comments below! Are its effects positive or negative? How do you think it will affect the future?

A website redesign does not involve the same process as creating a website from scratch. It may seem that fewer steps are required since some of the website’s features are already in place. However, making something new with what already exists—sorting features and content and totally rethinking a content strategy—requires an adapted project management methodology. In this article, we explain the 5 essential steps for a successful website redesign and how you can boost your content strategy along the road.

Why embark on a website redesign journey?

The reasons for a website redesign are varied. It can be a “simple” graphic redesign, a “refreshing” of an old-fashioned interface, the development of new features, or a complete rethinking of a Web strategy as well as a website localization. In any case, a redesign has to be motivated by the company or the organization on which the site depends. More simply, redesigning to look “more attractive” doesn’t do much good. A redesign is an opportunity to improve a website at all levels, both in terms of ergonomics and—as we will develop it today—to improve the quality of its content.

Which project management methodology to use?

Using an agile project management methodology, as with any Web project, is entirely appropriate. However, a redesign has its own needs in terms of project management. Let us guide you through this process!

Analyze your customer or your company

First, if you are redesigning a website for a client, take the time to understand them, their old website, and what motivates them to start a redesign. Is it to update a set of contents? Develop new features? Launch a new product range? Get up to date?

If you are responsible for managing a redesign project for your company, it’s still important to set aside time to fully understand the issues involved in the project, trying to step back as much as possible. Put yourself in the shoes of a user who visits the old website: how do you feel while browsing? Write down anything that would need improvement but also anything that you find positive.

A little bit of benchmarking is also appropriate, especially if the website you are working on is quite old. This will give you an overview of current Web trends in the industry.

Make the statistics speak for themselves

Carefully analyzing the statistics of a website, page by page, can seem tedious, especially when the deadlines for completing a project are tight. However, data such as the number of visits for a given period and which  devices, platforms, or keywords were used to access the website are valuable indicators to identify your audience and understand its habits.

The statistics you can collect will also allow you to see which pages are most visited and which pages do not seem to find their audience, which formats or content styles are more appealing, etc.

Reorganize content (without being lazy)

In accordance with the instructions given by your client or your company for the redesign and based on the statistics you have collected, sort all the content of the old website into 3 categories: to keep, to rework, to throw away. Don’t be lazy by keeping content that seems useless or outdated just because it is immediately available. However, be careful not to throw away quality content too quickly because it is not often visited. Ask yourself first if it suffers from a lack of SEO.

Also, brainstorm outside of pre-existing content to enrich the site if you find that important information is missing. Do not forget to reflect on your international audience too during this process. If you can, do this with collaborators during a dedicated meeting.

Then, redesign the website’s structure and navigation. Do not rely on the old one, and be critical. Just because a structure or a navigation has existed for a long time does not mean that it is necessarily relevant. Once again, it is preferable to do this task in a group to compare different points of view. Remember, a redesign without questioning the very foundations of the website is not relevant. It is not a simple matter of putting everything back into perspective, but of questioning schemes that were put in place at a given time and that may no longer be adapted to your audience today.

Keep a content management table

If you need fresh content for the new website, ask your client or your collaborators within your company for help. Explain as clearly as possible what you need—describe the editorial line and tone, any keywords to use, etc. Create a content management table according to your needs to help you monitor the progress of each writer and set deadlines. This table will become your basis for managing your project.

It is also an excellent tool for projects involving localization. You can indicate the number of words to be translated and the languages in which you have already received the content.

Establish a new work base

Work on the content does not stop once the new website is online. To make a website more lively and attractive to visitors through SEO, it is necessary to update it regularly. Create a schedule for publishing blog posts or news articles before the website is launched and ensure that other articles of this kind will be published after. Make your client or collaborators aware of this point and make them want to participate in the life of the website.

Finally, create a list of “sensitive” content, i.e. those that will require the most attention, such as texts with figures, dates, and information that may change frequently, in order to stay on track with the website update.

Did you find these tips for managing a redesign project helpful? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to visit our blog for more articles! 

According to the Web Accessibility Initiative’s website, “Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them.” Through this article, you will find some tips and tricks in order to make your interface more accessible! 

Why is Web accessibility important?  

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” We owe these words to Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and Inventor of the World Wide Web itself. 

Indeed, the Web is an incredible tool which was initially designed to bring people together, regardless of location or language. It allows us to communicate and access a tremendous amount of data and information, and modern societies highly rely on its numerous benefits. With universality at its core, it’s only natural for the Web to become more inclusive of people with disabilities, the elderly, people living in rural areas or in developing countries, and people using small devices (smart watches or smartphones). 

Of course, creating a website implies an understanding of its objectives and goals as well as an analysis of the targeted and expected audience. So it may not be necessary for you to adapt your website for people with every kind of disability. However, you should be aware that 15% of the world’s population suffers from various disabilities, which is why it’s important to make your website more inclusive. You can conduct usability testing in order to determine how people navigate your website and where the navigation difficulties are so that you can correct them later on.

There are still many websites which are not fully accessible, hence why the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) provides comprehensive explanations, standards and guidelines to help developers and organizations produce high-quality interfaces. 

Tips and tricks to make your website more accessible 

Now that you have understood what Web accessibility means, let’s have a look at how to make your website more accessible. In order to have a fully optimized and accessible interface, Web accessibility should be taken into account at the earliest stages of your project. However, these simple steps can be easily put in place at any point in the process.

Make sure your images have alt text tags 

You might have heard of alt text tags, but do you really know what they are for? Since search engines cannot interpret images the same way they interpret text, you can add alternative text to an image to describe what it represents in order to help search engines understand your content better. Therefore, alt tags are a great way to improve a website’s ranking, especially e-commerce websites which present pictures of various products. 

Furthermore, these tags are extremely useful for people with visual impairments using screen readers because the device reads the tags, thus allowing the user to understand what the image is about. Images play an important role in how people interpret the content of a web page, which is why this step shouldn’t be neglected. 

In short, adding good-quality alt text to images is a very simple step which can impact both people and businesses positively. 

Structure your content 

Well-structured content not only makes navigation easier, it’s also a key SEO element that helps users find your content and navigate through it more effectively. To achieve this, here is a short list of the things you should consider: 

  • Include clear titles and section headings in your pages
  • Include breadcrumb trails to inform users about their current location within a set of related pages
  • Have more than one way to find content on a website (for instance, through menu bars or search functions)
  • Ask yourself whether people with hearing or visual impairments can easily navigate through your content

Increase the size of clickable elements 

For people with mobility impairments, it can sometimes be difficult to click on an item if it is too small. To prevent that, the WAI recommends increasing the size of the clickable elements of a website to make them more accessible.

In 2018, there were 4 billion internet users around the world. As of October 2019, that number increased by almostbout half a billion. As more and more people gain access to the internet every year, make sure you are updating your website to make it more accessible and navigable. There are many more ways to allow users easier access to your sites; these are just a few, basic ideas to help get you started. For more information, check out the WAI website!

What are your thoughts on Web accessibility? How and for whom can websites become more accessible? Let us know in the comments! 

This article looks into the reasons why many companies turn to community support forums for tech support and troubleshooting, and how to do it the right way. 

Troubleshooting by peers: are community support forums the way to go?

Letting users take care of product support might sound counterintuitive to many companies. How can one expect non-experts to advise and troubleshoot? Aren’t the designers best equipped to answer helpless customers? How can you tell sound advice from nonsense? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of community support forums

A counter-intuitive approach to product support

With the development of forums in the early days of the internet, many product users were dissatisfied with the technical help they received from companies or vendors and turned to online forums. Users would go there to deal with their most common problems and discuss new releases. Users have come to enjoy the reactivity and efficiency of the help they can get in order to fix issues themselves. In the past few years, companies have taken notice and jumped on the community support bandwagon. Many have launched their own community forums, sometimes supplanting the original independent forums. 

Should your company go for community support?

There are a few reasons why a company benefits from making the switch to community support. First off, having customers talk to other customers allows them to share the most common problems and the solutions that they have found. In addition, such community forums can create a sense of belonging around the brand where customers can invest into and maybe, for the most prolific “helpers”, get some recognition from the brand itself. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. However, there are many pitfalls to avoid in order to have an effective community support forum that customers and users will want to turn to.

How to improve your community support forum

  • Make sure there is a dedicated troubleshooting section or tech support section in your community forum. Some users actually expect any type of company forum to become a product support community, such as the Fender guitars’ community forum. This forum was clearly intended to create a community and share news and opinions about their products. Even though there isn’t any dedicated tech support section, many users post about tech issues. Since the forum is not intended for that use, customers in need of tech support mostly get told by admins or moderators to turn to their local dealer, with hardly any direct help. Many troubleshooting inquiries remain unanswered and there is no way to know if the help offered by other users can be trusted. 
  • Winnow the users, and rank them to increase support reliability. It is absolutely crucial to make sure that users gets the most accurate information. One possibility is to rank the users according to their experience or effectiveness and award points to build a reputation. Additionally, a rewards system can be set up to incentivize the most helpful, most constructive users, such as on the Apple community page.
  • Finally, increase effectiveness: the interface should minimize user frustration when looking for an answer. An FAQ section is an absolute must, as well as pinned posts that deal with the most common issues. On the other hand, it is best to allow expert users to find unanswered or unresolved posts very easily such as on the WordPress community forum. In addition, the best solutions can be up-voted, such as on the GitHub community page.

The importance of moderators on community forums

If some users take the community forum as a platform to vent their frustration or simply bash the company, make sure that the admins or moderators have been trained to deal with it properly. Simply deleting inconvenient posts may backfire with accusations of censorship. It is strongly advised to avoid a public argument on the forum and invite the disgruntled user to discuss their issue via private message and put them in touch with a customer service representative. 

Finally, keep in mind that your community forum represents the company on the internet. If you make it easy to use, with quality content that actually helps your users, it can be a winning strategy for your company.  

Have you ever considered using community support for your company? Have you ever used community support? Were you satisfied with the help you got? Let us know in the comments below! 

Thank you for reading, we hope you found this article insightful.

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Thanks from the TCLoc web team.