TechComm Communities for 2020

Once in a while, you wonder where the discussion has gone for technical communicators. A lot has changed since founding this website in 2011. In those nearly ten years, much of the online landscape has changed from MySpace to TikTok.

Woah!

To not frighten folks who regularly come across my blog, here are places where you can discuss TechComm and related fields, online. There are quite lively conversations where you might learn something new or chime in with your thoughts. Did I miss anything? Let me know!

Reddit sub-reddits

Twitter Hashtags & Lists

LinkedIn Groups

Facebook Groups

Standalone

Blazing Site Speed & SEO

One of the most unique things about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that fascinates me is how Google ranks site speed on a website as one of 200 important factors of how a website is presented on their search results.

A slow website is a slow website and why would you want to go to a slow website? It might have been OK when we were on dialup, on the first generation residential always-on connection (somewhere around the 2000s), or gasp! on 2 or 3G networks.

Perplexing…

This got me thinking, what if you own a WordPress site and you’re scratching your head how to make some improvements?

Like scratching your head wondering how to make improvements for years?

Years…I’m exaggerating and I admit it is true.

What boggled my mind is how I’ve been befuddled with such slow WordPress sites for years. Google Search Console, Google Page Insights, GT Metrix, YSlow would tell me to fix things so make the user experience (UX) of landing on my website a fast experience. Yes, you can probably chastise me by saying, “You,” shaking your finger at me, “why didn’t you optimize your website based on those results and optimization recommendations?”

Kitchen Sink of Optimizations

I did. I read countless blog posts that tell me to off-load unused plugins, make image file sizes smaller, install optimization plugins, etc. For the even more advanced, even put this website onto a content delivery network (CDN) to speed things up with an attempt to make it truly SSL when Google began adjusting their algorithm to include serving secure content as a factor for displaying search results.

It moved the improvement needle a little bit and made the website experience slightly better, which was better than nothing.

What vexed me was trying to understand how to make my sites jump as if you were on an internal networked server. This was what I was used to when developing websites on a local machine. When it came to putting that work on a server, things were different.

The site would load slow and struggled to finish loading.

Then…The Lightbulb Moment!

I was still on the hunt to make it easier for websites to load and run faster. Of the plugins I was using helped optimize code and image. The first, code optimization came in the form of compressing the code, deferring code loading, and removing duplicate code. The latter was managing the size of images so they still load in an acceptable form that wouldn’t be noticeable to the eye.

Those code and image changes did some improvements, but it wasn’t until I began looking into how to defer JavaScript (JS) that helped reign in some of those load times. For the novice, which is really a majority of folks out there, browsers need to parse the HTML to load the page. If the code to run all JS is at the top of a page, it slows the load-time (especially if it’s loading JS from other distant servers that are not the ones hosting your website). 

To put it in simpler terms: JS is nice when it’s needed for a purpose, but what really matters is loading the first image and text of a website, then the rest of the fancy features can load in the background as long as the user does not notice it.

Deferring JS code to the bottom of the page doesn’t hurt, it’s more of rearranging the way a website loads without the wait.

The Nitty Gritty Details

To get further into detail, use the W3TC Total Cache WordPress plugin, under the Minify settings, go to the JS minify settings, and use the JS file management settings to selectively load certain JS files (such as external JS and non-themed-affecting JS) lower on the page rather than keeping that code at the top.

Try this kind of setting to optimize loading your JS.

There you go! Optimize your website and make life faster! Your users will totally love you for your diligence on improving the UX.

Where Am I These Days?

For those curious about why I haven’t been as engaged with technical communication community lately is that I’ve embarked on a multi-year Masters of Technical and Professional Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

I’ve simply been keeping my head in books and continuing my job working for the marketing team.

Let me share with you why I am pursuing a Masters degree and also some of the most interesting perspective about attending this program a few years after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication from New Mexico Tech, I felt I needed to take a break from spending nearly six years of my life achieving (failing and repeating courses) an education to get this Bachelor of Science degree.

I have to express this strongly: go for the Bachelor of Science degree if you are ever presented the choice between a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. More and more often, I’m noticing that you need experience understanding with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to fully compete in the world of technical communication. I also suggest taking a few management courses so you can understand how an organization works.

With that in hand and nearly eight years after graduating from New Mexico Tech, I want to pursue showing more and more people the importance of technical communication and how it plays a role in the business and education world.

Taking advantage of tuition reimbursement by my employer, this was a great opportunity to elevate my experience and add more to the field of technical communication.

For example, much of our working world is now dominated by computers and mobile devices. To design such systems requires much more than slapping on some text and creating some code. It requires a technical approach to write and develop content.

My goal with a Masters degree is to demonstrate my teaching skills as well as hone in my own approach to technical communication. My world is split between marketing, social media, web content, and content strategy. There really is a lot to go about in this field and build upon the thousands of others who have built the framework of technical communication and content strategy.

One of my plans is to publish a series that is much more focused on The Content Strategy Magazine, a new publication I created earlier in the year. Perhaps you can check it out sometime, it still is in its infancy stage.

Hope to see some of you soon on the conference trail! Until then, back to studying and working on my Masters program.