Welcome

Karen Rempel, Vancouver Technical Writer
   Karen Rempel, Vancouver Technical Writer

Hi, I’m Karen Rempel, a Vancouver-based documentation specialist, senior technical writer, and exceptional technical editor.

If you need a technical writer, and you’d like to discuss how I can create great documentation for your next project, please call me at 604.251.6337 or send an email to kyrempel@shaw.ca.

This is my website for showcasing my technical writing experience and helping you get to know me a little. If you have come to this site to learn about the technical writing, business analysis, and information development skills I can bring to your company, I think you will also discover that I am a well-rounded individual who enjoys working with others and will fit in well with your team.

About Me
  • I love learning to use new products and getting to know new people.
  • I work as an independent contractor and consultant technical writer because I am interested in learning about new industries and subjects.
  • I am up-to-date and expert with the technical writing tools of my profession and learn about my clients’ products and processes very quickly.
  • I have a meticulous eye for detail, the skill to explain concepts and processes in simple terms, and the ability to help people see how the parts fit into the whole.
  • I always get the job done on time, while producing top-quality documentation.
Technical writers bridge people and technology

Technical writers bridge people and technologyI am a senior professional technical writer with over 20 years of experience in the computer software industry and many other industries (see resume), well established as an incorporated consultant. The simplest way to describe the many things I do as a technical writer is that I bridge people and technology to help you do business. I help people use technology, including the Internet and social media such as LinkedIn, to serve their needs and meet their business goals in the simplest, most effective way possible. I was the 2008-2009 president of the Canada West Coast chapter of my professional organization, the Society for Technical Communication.

Recommendations for My Work

“It was truly a pleasure to work with such a competent and driven individual as Karen… Above all, Karen is fantastic with everyone she works with, an important skill for capturing the input of a large team. I would not hesitate to use Karen’s services again. She was instrumental in making this project a success and is a true professional in her field.” – Brian Harrington, Chevron Canada

“Karen has provided outstanding technical writing services. Her ability to provide technical direction on the project was superb; she was further able to quickly integrate as a team member on the project and was able to quickly gain trust with the project committee. We are extremely satisfied with her work and contribution and will look to engaging her service for future projects.” – Jon Tuttle, Sysco Canada

“Karen is a skilled professional who cares about the quality and value that she provides. Karen is personable and easy to work with. She is the best consultant that I have ever worked with and I would not have any reservations hiring her again.” – Ray Filipiak, Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC

“Karen Rempel demonstrated exemplary leadership skills and strategic vision.” – Eagranie Yuh, Society for Technical Communication

See the Recommendations page or my profile on LinkedIn for additional recommendations of my work.

Samples

The Portfolio page shows some technical writing samples. Scroll down this page to read my recent blog entries.

A Passion for Technical Writing

Technical writing is one of my passions, and I love the challenges that each new contract brings. Don’t hesitate to contact me, whether your technical writing project is big or small. I often work via telecommuting, but also appreciate the chance to meet with you in person and work alongside a team for contracts that involve on-site work and meetings.

I have been an incorporated technical writing consultant since 2003. I am available for projects in Vancouver and New York, as well as via telecommuting. Thank you for visiting! I look forward to speaking with you soon.

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Another New York Love Affair

I am excited to share Another New York Love Affair #25 with you:

I took this footage of the “Sterling Cooper” building in my final week in New York, at the end of March. At the time I was midway through watching Mad Men on Netflix, and in love with the cast of characters. Also in love with New York, and the beautiful strangeness of Madison Avenue. Enjoy!

I am aiming for 100 over the next three years. I’ve got to get back to New York to do it, though!

Instructional Design for Smartphones

SmombiesTHEY’RE UBIQUITOUS. People love their smartphones and the smombies are among us! Yes, the smartphone zombies are among us! You’ve seen them—people walking slowly, looking down at their phones, oblivious to their surroundings, possibly risking an accident—an increasingly common social phenomenon.

To smombies, the content on their phones seems more interesting than real life. I did a one-minute video of a New York subway platform, and almost everyone on the platform was looking at their phones while waiting for the train. The situation is becoming extreme. But I understand, because I’m addicted to my smartphone, too! It seems like fun, not work, to learn
on a smartphone instead of a computer. So how can we use this technology to teach?

The idea is to design short training pieces that can be delivered via your app or website. Keep the training sessions to 10 minutes or less. Make the training tasks interactive, so people can use the fun features of their smartphones. Deliver some of your content using video—people just love watching video!

Instructional Video Design Tips

Here are some tips for designing effective videos for learning:

  • Include a title slide for orientation
  • Use high resolution (1080P HD)
  • Include still pictures—both iconic (resembling
    real objects) and analytic (symbolizing objects
    or states)
  • Include short on-screen texts—labels, call-outs,
    short text slides
  • Facilitate closed captions and subtitling—create
    your own or use YouTube’s automated features
  • Include background music
  • Eliminate unpleasant background noise (electronic
    hums, static, and so on)
  • Use a speaking rate of 180 words per minute
    (faster is more popular than slower)

These 8 tips adapted from Petra ten Hove and Hans van der Meij’s research (2015).

STC 2016 International Summit Awards

I was honoured to participate in the prestigious Society for Technical Communication (STC) International Summit Awards (ISA) in two different roles this year. I served as both ISA Competition Judging Manager and as a judge. This meant I had the chance to view an exciting showcase of the top work in the field of technical writing.

The winning entries demonstrated exceptional technical writing clarity, organization, and delivery, with a strong focus on meeting the needs of the end user. The winning entries’ communication delivery methods displayed both brilliance and beauty, with innovative video and voice narration, breath-taking print artwork, and game-changing web-based delivery methods. I felt inspired to see the fantastic work that other technical writers are doing, and look forward to seeing further innovations next year.

Who Can Enter?

The ISA competition is open to entrants who have won a Distinguished or Excellence award at the chapter or regional level. Technical writers do not have to be a member of the STC to enter STC competitions. This year we had entries from North America, Europe, and Israel.

Highlights – Video and Judges

One of the highlights was viewing the video entries. I am very interested in the ways that video can be used to deliver and enhance technical communication. I developed a new set of criteria for judging videos, and will be helping to revise the judging forms for future competitions.

Another highlight was managing a team of 20 experienced and committed judges. I met new technical writers from across Canada and the US, and had the opportunity to both coach and learn as we worked together. In order to meet a very tight deadline, my amazing team judged 34 entries in just over a week. Well done, everyone!

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Information interviews sweep across the continent

STC Pacesetter AwardI’ve written previously about the Information Interview Service that I created for the STC’s Canada West Coast chapter. Our chapter won a Pacesetter Award for this service, which pairs aspiring technical writers with experienced technical writers. I published an article about this service in Intercom, the professional technical writing journal of the STC, and both the New York Metro chapter and the Chicago chapter implemented similar services. So now if you would like to talk to a senior technical writer about what is involved in joining our technical writing profession, you have three choices:

BTW, the New York Metro chapter also won a Pacesetter Award for their Talk to a Professional service, and the Chicago chapter won a Pacesetter Award the year they implemented their service as well. I am delighted that my idea bore such wonderful fruit for technical writers across the continent!

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Welcome to Twenty Sixteen

Google Analytics for WebsiteYou might notice my site looks a little different today. I updated to the WordPress twentysixteen theme. You may recall I gave an enthusiastic shout-out to WordPress last May, when I updated my site to use the twentyfifteen theme. I still think WordPress is awesome, and it would appear that website builders the world over agree with me. As of today’s date (February 6, 2016), 59.1% of websites in the world use WordPress, according to W3Techs.

It was a snap to make the change, taking about 2 hours total to select the theme, install it, create a few graphics in the right size, and make a few minor formatting tweaks. I added my own copyright information to the footer, customized the link font colour, and changed the font size for the tags in the left column. This is an amazing accomplishment (on the part of their coders to make the task so easy), and I am very appreciative of the service that WordPress provides for free to the world computing community.

I made these changes using a combination of the user-friendly WordPress editing platform and direct coding in the .php and .css files.

While I was at it, I took a look at my Google Analytics for the site. I thought it would be fun to compare the stats from the past month to the stats I reported in May 2015:

Device May 2015 Feb 2016
Desktop 918 – 92% 936 – 89%
Mobile Phone 70 – 7% 92 – 9%
Tablet 15 – 1% 26 – 2%
Total Visitors 1,003 1,054

The table above shows that the percentage of mobile users has increased slightly. Still, the majority of people who searched for a technical writer used their desktop computer, which makes sense. I imagine people would prefer to do this at work, not while lounging on the beach!

Browser May 2015 Feb 2016
Chrome 729 702
FireFox 115 127
Safari 72 108
Internet Explorer 31 90
Other 56 27
Total Visitors 1,003 1,054

No changes in the browser pecking order either, though the use of Internet Explorer did increase significantly.

I welcome your thoughts on the new site design. Drop me a line!

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Shadow Play art exhibit

Fellow technical writer Jon Steeves standing in front of Shadow Play, 7'x 9', ink on canvas
Fellow technical writer Jon Steeves standing in front of Shadow Play, 7’x 9′, ink on canvas

I had my first art exhibit in August, at the Havana Art Gallery on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. The exhibit ran from August 6 to 19, with the opening night reception on August 9. It was a smashing fun night, and I took the art to the next level in this 5-minute video I made of the event.

I used Camtasia Studio, with footage and photos recorded on my iPhone 5S. The remix of Gary Numan’s “You Are in My Vision” was something Miguel Wisintainer created, and I love the way the lyrics go with the people’s morphing faces. A true celebration of the love and caring I felt as my friends and family came to look at my artwork and see how it impacted them. Can you guess how many technical writers are in the video? Drop me a line and you will win a prize if you guess right!

To see close-ups of the artwork, check out my BC Wilderness Visions blog.

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MadCap Flare 11 review on I’d Rather Be Writing

MadCap Flare User Interface
I am pleased to announce a collaboration with Tom Johnson of I’d Rather Be Writing. In 2008, he wrote a definitive review of MadCap Flare v3 that has helped countless technical writers and prospective users of MadCap Flare. BC Hydro logoSince I had the pleasure of doing a recent MadCap Flare project for BC Hydro, we agreed that I would update his review and add some insights on MadCap Flare 11.

In the process of preparing the review, I generated this sample MadCap Flare project using their new Top Navigation feature. See what you think!

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Mobile-friendly web design

Hi again. Following up on my previous entry about iPhone 5 Simulation with phone number link - Karen Rempel Vanccouver technical writermobile web design, here are some new tips for mobile-friendly web design:

  • Use a stylesheet that re-sizes content based on the viewer size. As I mentioned in my last post, a current theme like WordPress Twenty Fifteen is set up to re-size for every common viewer size.
  • Use phone tags for phone numbers:

<a title=“Call me” href=
“tel://+16042516337”>
604.251.6337</a> (m)

Result: 604.251.6337 (m)

This allows the user to tap your phone number and call you, even in browsers that don’t automatically convert phone numbers to a clickable link.

  • Use a high-contrast colour for links, with enough space around links for people to be able to tap the link they want. Re-write or re-format to avoid crowding links together.
  • Put a Back to Top link at the bottom of long pages or entries, so people don’t have to scroll back up.
  • Use a simulation tool like MobileTest.me to view your website on different mobile devices.
  • Also remember to test your site in the top browsers, like Chrome, FireFox, Safari, and IE.

Whether you are looking for a technical writer consultant or contractor for work in Vancouver or another location, this website serves as a Portfolio sample of mobile design in action! Also check out my Resume page if you are looking for technical writer resumes or CVs.

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Welcome to Twenty Fifteen

Vancouver Technical Writer Karen Rempel Updates Websites to WordPress Twenty FifteenThanks for visiting my revised website! Hi, I’m Karen Rempel, a Vancouver-based documentation specialist and senior technical writer.

I just updated this website to be mobile-friendly using the fantastic WordPress theme Twenty Fifteen. I also updated my BC Wilderness Visions website, using the same theme but different settings. Check it out to see the striking effects that can be achieved by simple colour changes.

I want to give a big shout-out to WordPress for this awesome theme. It only took me a day to update both websites to use this theme. I was previously using Silver Light by Blog Oh! Blog. I loved this theme and didn’t want to change, but Google forced me into action by notifying me that my Google ranking would slip if I didn’t make my site resizable for mobile phones and tablets. What can you do?

I checked out my Google Analytics for the past month, and found that of the 1000+ visitors to this technical writing website:

  • 918 used desktops. This is what I thought! My clients are typically at their desk at work when they think about their need for a technical writer, do a search, and call me.
  • 70 used their mobile phones.
  • 15 used their tablets.
Technical writers bridge people and technology

Technical writers bridge people and technologySo isn’t it interesting that people use technology to find technical writers? Most of my clients find me by searching on the internet. And thanks to Google Analytics, I know which devices they use, what countries they search from, and even what browser they use!

Here are the stats for browsers used to find this technical writing website:

  • Chrome – 729
  • FireFox – 115
  • Safari – 72
  • Internet Explorer – 31

Please drop me a line to let me know what you think of the new site! And if you like, tell us what device and browser you used to get here. 🙂

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