“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― John Steinbeck,
With winter comes reflection, TC Camp and Chapter elections! Continue reading
Back in the day, tech writers were the vanguard of software usability; the way to make software easier to use was to write a better user manual. But then along came usability, and writers discovered that they could better serve their readers by helping engineers to make software easier to use. Writers also made their instructions more accessible by providing user assistance in the form of UI text, tooltips, and context-sensitive help.
Nowadays we hear less about usability and more about user experience. In fact, the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) recently changed its name to the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). How did this happen, and what does it mean for the future of our profession? What is the role of technical writing in this new universe?
Nicki L. Davis, Ph.D. wrote her first user manual in 1980 while studying for her Ph.D. in chemistry. She has worked as a technical writer for over 35 years and conducted her first usability test in 1992. Nicki has served the Berkeley chapter of STC as treasurer, secretary, and most recently as president. She holds the honorary rank of STC Associate Fellow.
Date: Thursday, 5 JANUARY 2018.
Summary: As a 35-year tech comm vet, Nicki Davis knows a thing or two about how to help engineers improve their designs to enhance user experience. Her presentation on January 4 revealed how technical writers can contribute, and inspired more than a few nodding heads, war stories and chuckles. Read more…
EBSTC members, you really should have attended Nicki’s presentation in person to appreciate these best moments:
While HCI folks are primarily focused on visual design and patterns within a graphical user interface, they share the writer’s goals to minimize wordy text, maintain a consistent vocabulary and deliver what users actually need. As fellow technical communicators, they too are champions of task and user analysis, usability testing and taking the end user’s perspective. But both groups also share the difficulty of getting respect, recognition and early access to make the most impact for a positive user experience.
We also share the challenge to influence developers, project managers and UI designers who don’t feel guilty saying, “They’ll learn!” when we point out poor design, often too late in the project. An especially galling point was Nicki’s observation that at one old-school company, learning a particularly difficult software interface was considered a rite of passage for new team members.
Eyes rolled when Nicki presented common challenges faced by both writers and HCI staff:
Ultimately, if you want to influence and improve the user experience of products produced by your company, you need to communicate internally to inform, educate and demonstrate how your core skills can contribute to project teams and end user satisfaction.
Meanwhile, enjoy Nicki’s presentation and its cartoon illustrations.
It’s time to renew your STC and East Bay chapter membership…the renewal period is closing soon, and we want you to stay with us as a member of our value-adding, award-winning community!