Reference Cards & Online Reference Systems
From a one-page cheatsheet to a 12-page laminated guide and on to a full online reference system, reference cards help your customers get the most from your product. Reference cards help your customers use your product as efficiently as possible — whether it is an application, hardware, or an API.
Put the features of your product at their fingertips and turn your users into power users and word-of-mouth advocates for future sales with a reference card.
Contact us today and we’ll talk about your project.
- Why Reference Cards?
- Reference Content
- Your Reference Card as a Sales Tool
- Online Reference Pages
Make your sales go up by improving customer satisfaction.
Your customers will get the most from your application if you help them use it as efficiently as possible. This goes for adoption of programming languages too.
When your users need to look up a function or command, do they wade through hundreds of pages to find their answer? A reference card allows your users to be productive without having to turn to the manual or lengthy spec over and over again. The more complex your product is or the longer the documentation, the more you need a reference card.
Reference cards help create power users, which are an important asset to any company. They support and instruct others, and promote your product by showing off what it can do. Best of all, these vocal users inspire others to use your product.
What can a reference card do for you?
- Make your complex API or product — hardware or software — easier to use.
- Help turn casual users into experts, and turn experts into power users.
- Put answers in your customers’ hands, even when there is no printed manual.
- Provide the most on-topic giveaway you can get for your next event.
- Get bloggers and user groups talking about your product.
- Make it easier for instructors to include your product in their curricula
What goes on a reference card?
You’ve got limited real estate on a reference card — what content should you include? You should include any details which would be difficult to remember but which must be used frequently, such as:
- Lists and definitions of menu items
- Prototypes and descriptions for commands, functions, and directives
- API syntax
- Symbol keys
- Lists or tables of common values or cross references
- Diagrams and charts
- Valid value ranges
Beyond technical reference
In addition to standard reference information, a reference card can include information that can help promote your products and services:
- Calls to action and cross-promotions to other products
- Branding, copyright, and trademark information
- URLs and other contact information
What can you do with a reference card?
Reference cards can help you increase sales and retain customers. Our customers tell us that the reference cards they give out at tradeshows are the talk of every event they go to, and in one case, a university course was created based entirely on a reference card that we poroduced.
So what should you do with a reference card?
Give it away.
- Post a PDF on your website, providing it free to your users to help them become power users
- Use it as the most on-topic giveaway possible at events
- Provide it to schools and other trainers
- Give it to user groups
- Make sure all your sales reps have some to give away
- Make sure your customer support team tells callers where to go on your website to find it
- Defray the cost of printing by selling your reference card
- Offer bulk rates for schools
- Sell on your own website or using your Pro Seller account on Amazon, or many printers offer fulfillment at low or no cost to you. (Here are some our reference cards being sold on Amazon.)
- Offer posters too! (Available for cards with 4 or fewer pages.)
Don’t stop with a reference card.
Especially for software products, an online reference system could be a great tool to help your users be productive. While reference cards distill reference content into as few pages as possible, the “real estate limitation” is taken away with online reference systems.
The value of these systems is that they can include almost all of the information in your specification, with extensive hyperlinking to make it easy to navigate and to give your users access to the information quickly and easily.
Check out this online reference system.
Our reference cards have been downloaded from our customers’ websites over 330 THOUSAND times!
Click on an image to see a sample reference card, and check out this online reference system:
3D Modeling & Photography
A picture is worth far more than a mere thousand words.
Your brochures, videos, website, and presentations need more than carefully-chosen words and stock clip art – they need images of your products, 3D models, or video demonstrations. From full 3D prototypes starting from your specifications, to placing your products in new environments for a marketing brochure, we provide services in 3D modeling, product photography, image manipulation and restoration, and more.
Making the Imagination Real
3D modeling allows us to create scenes and photo-realistic images of items that don’t physically exist. We can start with your description or, better yet, design specifications or CAD files. From there we can create detailed images and scenes that you can use on your website, in your marketing literature and more. This is useful for developing marketing pieces to promote products that are still in the design phase, for product prototyping, architectural rendering, tradeshow booth design, and much more.
Let Photoshop step in…
Do you need to add another product to an existing photo? Did a wedding guest accidentally wander into the best shot? Is your only photo of a beloved aunt in bad condition? Send us your digital photos, or we can scan your snapshots — then let us fix it for you.
We’re not a service bureau with big equipment that scans hundreds of photos and makes adjustments by machine. We’re Photoshop artists with a good scanner and lots of experience fixing business and product photos, heirloom family portraits, wedding photos, and more.
Click a thumbnail below to see a full-size image.
Marketing, Business, & Technical Communication
Whether it’s for a semiconductor brochure or a wedding program, good writing, careful editing, and polished layout team up to make the cornerstone of your communications.
Every project is different. We can start from scratch: conducting interviews and doing research, writing a first draft, editing in response to your feedback, then bringing your project to its final form. Or we can take your notes or your draft and take it from there.
Almost everything you do in business requires quality writing and editing:
- Web and blog copy
- Brochure, PR, and ad copy
- Case studies, solution briefs, and more
- Newsletters, whether they are emailed, online, or printed
- User manuals
- API specifications
- Technical reports
- User interface and messaging
- Specifications, standards, and procedure documentation (including FDA GMP)
- Employee manuals
- Rules and procedures
- Annual report copy
Getting the words right.
Writing and editing work can take many forms, and we can help you regardless of where you are in your project.
- Project: We can help you plan your project from start to finish. We can take on the whole project, or we can work with your writers and manage the project for you.
- Writing: We can write anything, from web copy or annual report copy to a full technical book.
- We can start from your notes or conduct interviews and start from scratch.
- Other projects are more like rewrites: we take notes or chapters from a variety of authors and bring them together into a single voice. This allows you to get technical content from busy authors who can send over their rough concepts to be polished by us.
- We “fix” translated material that originated in a different language and isn’t quite the smooth English you need.
- Editing: Good editing is the first part of what separates good documents from the bad. We can take your existing materials and edit them for crispness and clarity. Our editing process includes checking for:
- Proper word choice, grammar, and spelling
- Extra spaces, dashes (en vs. em), typographic quotes, and more.
- Matching table and figure numbering, captions, and other technical editing
- Sentence and paragraph construction and overall readability
- Final Steps: We can take your document and turn it it into a finished masterpiece with full layout services. We produce print-ready files for offset printing or production through Lulu, Createspace, or other print-on-demand vendors, and we can produce interactive PDFs and eBooks.
The finishing touch.
Even with the best writing and editing in the world, you must present your work in a way that people will want to read. Quality layout puts the finishing touches on your document
- Bring us your document and we will lay it out into a professional brochure, manual, or book.
- We have 20+ years of layout experience and know how to use the proper styling and tagging techniques that enable document automation, eBook rendering, and more.
- We can start with your work in almost any file format, and can even scan your hard copy document if an electronic version does not exist.
- We can use your illustrations or photographs, or create or source them for you.
- We can use your templates and guidelines, or create a new collateral design for you.
- We can deliver final files for web or print, or help you get them printed.
- We work with the professional layout software and provide you with the final production files.
Adding intelligence to your document.
It’s the extras in finished documents that make them really shine. However these are the very things that are often forgotten or are executed as an afterthought.
- Contents & Cross References: When a customer is looking to buy a book, the first thing he will probably look at is the table of contents, which will give a good picture of what the book includes. Tables of contents (as well as cross references within a book) need to be automatically generated so that they are accurate even as a book is revised. In electronic documents, these should contain links.
- Index: For non-fiction books of almost any length, an index can give it the edge it needs to help it add even more value to its readers. Book browsers deciding between books will look at the index to get an idea of the depth of detail available in the book.
- PDF Bookmarks: In a PDF file, the full contents of the document should be included in the bookmarks, giving users an interactive table of contents to let them navigate from wherever they are in the document.
We invite you to look at samples of our work by clicking a thumbnail below to open a PDF. The letters beneath the thumbnail tell you whether we were involved with the Writing, Editing, or Layout on that project.
Nobody can do it all.
Professionals are distracted every day by wearing too many hats. Software engineers making marketing decisions, tech writers deciding on brand messaging, and entrepreneurs mired in minutiae of every-day projects result in ineffective marketing and work left undone.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could stick to your area of expertise and let someone else deal with this specialty stuff? That’s what we’re here for. You know what you want to do. Let us worry about how to get it done for you.
Program Management Services
We can manage your project to completion, on time and on (or under) budget. Building on a background of IT project management, we can:
- Define your project—from strategic planning to mapping out the tactics
- Help define metrics so you can establish ROI
- Gather and document requirements, whether through research or interviewing stakeholders
- Interview and hire resources, or work with your team
- Meetings, plan documents, and status reports and presentations
Let us help you put on a great show.
We have participated in managing event projects in whole or in part for many years. This includes:
- Securing booth space
- Dealing with booth vendors to design and customize booths and arranging shipping and setup
- Arranging for electricity, carpeting, and furniture rental
- Coordinating booth staff, in-booth presentations, catering, and other booth activities
- Advertising, collateral, and booth giveaways
- Lead collection and follow-up
- Post-show reports
Marketing is communication.
Too often, companies treat marketing as a way to just blast their sales message out there without considering what impact it has on their overall brand on how it affects customers’ perceptions. Any communication is a two-way street, and that includes marketing.
Whether developing a simple web banner or a 16-page brochure, an animation, or more—your marketing activities need to fit in with your strategic plans and should get out into the world without taking up all of your time. Let us help, with activities including:
- Assisting to define the project based on your needs and goals
- Making sure the defined tactics will meet your stated strategic goals, and planning the metrics we can use to make sure you can demonstrate ROI
- Bringing in the right resources to get the job done, or working with the resources you have available
- Work with all the resources to ensure everyone is on track
- Coordinating the day-to-day activities required to get the job done
- Meetings, interviews, and status reports
Your website is your front door.
What your potential customers see on your website will form a large part of their first impression of your company. We will help you plan the website that will best meet your needs, then work with web developers to get it up and running.
Hire Miller & Mattson to manage your web project and to interface with the web developers—whether it is a developer we brought to the table, a web agency you hired, or one of your own. This means we are the ones making sure things are staying on track to meet your goals—not just the artistic vision of the designer. It also means that we are the ones answering the hundreds of questions and minding the progress of the project along the way.
We also look closely at SEO, making sure that the site we develop will be found by as many customers as possible. Getting traffic to your website is an important job which your advertising and SEO efforts should do. But if you aren’t converting visitors into customers, then something is wrong. The most important thing your website should be is a source of sales.
We can look at your website and suggest ways you can improve your conversion rate. First we learn about your customers, products, and strategic goals. Then we analyze every part of your website and write a 10+ page report with suggestions about what you should change to help convert browsers into buyers and meet your strategic goals.
Following are some of the topics covered in a report, although each report is very different depending on your audience, your goals, your website, and the nature of your business:
- Navigation standards: Is your site designed with common usability standards such as an easy link to home, and clearly indicated links?
- Template: Is your template applied consistently, and does it implement good readability standards?
- Look and feel: Does the design of your site match with your collateral and business cards?
- Graphics: Are your graphics audience-appropriate and professional? Are they crisp and web-optimized?
- Hierarchy: Is the information on your site organized logically and in a way that your audience will find intuitive?
- Titles: Are the names and titles of pages, links, and other items intuitive for your audience?
- Calls to action: Do you have a clear call to action on every page, and is there a process in the background to turn those actions into sales?
- Downloads: Are your downloads and links sending potential customers off your site before you’ve made a sale?
- Forms: Are you collecting too much or not enough information from users?
- About Us: Is your Company or About Us page saying the right thing?
- Freshness: Is the site designed in a way that forces you to constantly keep it looking fresh?
- Automation: Are there ways you can automate aspects of your site to make it easier for you to maintain?
- Copy: Is your copy brief yet complete? Is it compelling? Is it making the point you want to make?
- Co-marketing: Are there co-marketing opportunities on your site, such as promoting association or other memberships?
- Contacts: Are you offering your customers the best ways to contact you?
It’s all virtual.
We’re physically located in Portland, Oregon, USA. But we work in the virtual world: we can run projects entirely online, and in fact have clients we have never met face-to-face. Don’t let geography get in the way! We look forward to working with you, no matter where you are.
Kathleen Mattson has been in high-tech marketing communications for the last 20+ years, including marketing and technical writing and editing, design, web design and management, general marketing communications, project management, application design, and business development. She can work with your agencies, with your internal team, or just with you one-on-one and be an outsourced part of your team. Send Kathleen an email and read her blog.
Dave Miller is a technology professional with broad experience in the high-tech industry for over 25 years. He has expertise in software design and development, tools and systems software, real-time, and embedded systems. He is an expert writer, including programming guidelines, technical specifications, and project documentation. He has deep knowledge of C/C++, knowledge and experience working with programming specifications, extensive experience with low-level, embedded systems programming, and a broad range of software engineering experience. Read Dave’s articles or send Dave an email.
Extended Team. We also have a team of freelancers and consultants with whom we have worked through the years to lend a hand, including a team of folks who do computer work such as data entry and a fulfillment team for work such as folding, envelope stuffing, labeling, and more.
Email is the best way to reach us. Drop Kathleen a line and we’ll talk about your project. firstname.lastname@example.org
Or if you’d like to chat on the phone, call 503-985-6004 (Portland, Oregon).