Analysis of Team Design Review

Probably most of you don’t know that I changed jobs recently, visit which is part of the reason I’ve been posting so infrequently. When you change jobs there is so much to learn, salve and it takes time.

One of the benefits of my new job is that I’m working with an impressive team. I have great respect for every one of my team members. We have four technical writers, mind three trainers, and our manager. They are quite the group. We have Intermountain STC chapter president Ben Minson, the unstoppable Tom Johnson of I’d Rather Be Writing, and fellow Flare pro Derek Warren. (Derek’s mother, we discovered, is really good friends with my wife. They met while serving as missionaries in Russia.)

Recently we added a new component to our team meetings: Design Review. Every other team meeting, three team members get 30 minutes each to talk about projects they are working on, and they get to demonstrate some of the cool things they are integrating into the project. As a team, we look at the project and both learn from what they’ve done, and make suggestions on how they might improve the project.

Our first design review was this week. Captain Ben was out sick, so he didn’t get to present his work, but we got to see some of Tom’s work, as well as the work of Mike, one of the trainers on our team. I was super impressed with both of their work. Tom demonstrated how he was using a Wiki to manage documentation for a community-developed software product. Mike showed us how he created an online quick reference guide that used JavaScript and divs to hide content and only show the part that the user needed at that moment.

I found both demonstrations very interesting. It was great to see how Tom is working to involve the community in documentation of a community-developed software tool. We talked about the wiki as a documentation source, and discussed the pros and cons of using a wiki for documentation. Tom is up doing a presentation at a university in Idaho today and tomorrow, and he is going to see if he can encourage the university tech comm students to contribute to the project. I’ll be interested to watch to see how that develops. As for Mike’s presentation, I was very impressed with the professional quick reference website that he created in Dreamweaver. It made me re-think how we can provide quick reference material to our customers. We spent a lot of time talking about how you know when to provide it in a quick reference page format, and when to create a full help system, and I found that discussion useful.

I am going to like these review sessions. They are mentally engaging and it’s fun to see what other team members are doing. I think it will help all of us improve our current projects, and help us be better writers overall.

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