Moving a Community to the Web: Creating Hyperviews:Online

  by Bill Bledsoe, Karen Mobley, and Scott DeLoach

This panel discusses the issues involved in creating Hyperviews:Online, the web-based newsletter for the STC Online Information Special Interest Group (SIG). The panel explores why Hyperviews, the hardcopy newsletter for the Online Information SIG, was moved to the web and the design decisions the editorial staff made to accomplish the move. The panel also discusses what tools and methods they used, what worked and what didn’t, as well as future directions for Hyperviews:Online. The panel includes the Online Information SIG manager, newsletter editor, and newsletter assistant editor. The panel will also encourage feedback and brainstorming from the Online Information SIG community it serves.

What is Hyperviews:Online?
Hyperviews:Online is the web newsletter of the STC Online Information SIG. It began publication in the fall of 1997 as the replacement for the printed publication called Hyperviews. The editorial staff consisted of Bill Bledsoe, Karen Mobley, and Scott DeLoach.

How it Started
When the new editorial staff arrived in the summer of 1997, Hyperviews had a great reputation for its quality of information and excellence in design. However, due to logistical issues, it hadn't published in a while.

During the 1997 International Conference, discussion in the Online Information SIG gatherings led to exploring the possibility of a totally online presentation of Hyperviews. Past issues had been published in WinHelp, but the new effort involved a different approach. Chapter web sites were becoming popular. The Online Information SIG felt that if any SIG's publication ought to be exclusively online, it was theirs.

Advantages of Moving Hyperviews:Online to the Web
We capitalized on several distinct advantages in moving Hyperviews to the web, including significant cost savings and the ability to update content frequently. Additionally, as the online medium expanded, moving Hyperviews to the web lent more credibility to the publication.

Some Challenges...
We quickly learned there are unique challenges to running a publication without any face-to-face meetings. Regular status updates were done on the run. We needed a lot of patience to deal with individual schedule, job trends and personal catastrophes. In addition, a whole new set of technical issues beyond the control of the group presented themselves. We also received a small amount of concern about the availability of Hyperviews:Online as a resource for only Online Information SIG members.

The Mechanics of Hyperviews:Online
Tool selection is a constant process for us. We never make a final selection because of individual access to tools, personal preferences, and constant innovations in the tools industry. In the beginning, we agreed that most WYSIWYG editors were not the way to go. We stuck with standard HTML. We code for the 3.0 browser level and do not use advanced HTML or scripting tricks. We do make extensive use of tables for formatting, and we have a basic style template from which all pages are created.

File management and directory structuring of old issues has been a yearlong battle for us, but with the Winter 1999 issue we feel that we have this nailed down. We will discuss this further at our session.

Design, Design Again...
The design of Hyperviews:Online has evolved as well. Our largest redesign effort to date debuted with the Fall 1998 issue. The design was part of a class project for our assistant editor and involved a significant amount of research on her part.

Given the broad audience in terms of computing platform that our publication serves, it has been a challenge to come up with a "lowest common denominator" design that would still prove usable and interesting.

Where Do We Go from Here?
The future of Hyperviews:Online is wide open. We have built a good nucleus of columnists, and we continue to receive quality feature articles that cover a broad range of issues in online information. However, as the technical communication profession focuses on new areas of online information, it is imperative that Hyperviews:Online reflect that change. We need to be on the forefront of this change, actively pursuing topics that are more technical or practical and less theory-based. Additionally, Hyperviews:Online (and Hyperviews before it) has a tendency to focus heavily on the online help community and consequently miss some other areas of the online information community at large. We will be looking for feedback during our session about this and other topics. We look forward to seeing you there to discuss them.


Bill Bledsoe
Web Developer – Technical Consultant
Data Processing Resources Corporation (DPRC)
12444 Powers Court Drive, Suite 308
St. Louis, MO 63131

Bill Bledsoe is a web developer based in St. Louis, MO. He is a graduate of the prestigious University of Missouri – Columbia School of Journalism. Bill specializes in building online information systems for a variety of audiences, in a variety of mediums. He is the editor of Hyperviews:Online, and has served the St. Louis Chapter of STC as their first Webmaster as well as co-V.P. of Programs.


Karen Mobley
Online Help and Web Designer
IBM Corporation
3039 Cornwallis Road 4P3A/205
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709

Karen Mobley has a BS in Computer Sciences from Clemson University. She is a software developer and technical writer for IBM Netfinity Servers in Research Triangle Park, NC. She specializes in online document and help system design. Karen has presented at several STC conferences and has published in the STC Journal Technical Communication. She is also the assistant editor for the STC Online SIG’s web-based newsletter Hyperviews:Online. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Technical Communication at North Carolina State University.


Scott DeLoach
Founding Partner - User First Services, Inc.
User First Services, Inc.
45B South Peachtree Street
Norcross, GA 30071

Scott DeLoach is co-founder of User First Services, Inc., a technical communication consulting company based in Atlanta, GA. Scott is a senior member of STC and is currently the International STC Online SIG Manager. He has a master's degree in technical and scientific communication from Miami University.