Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing

Subject: Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing
From: Chuck Martin <cm -at- writeforyou -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2004 10:02:05 -0700

Mark Baker wrote:

On the contrary, it is important to understand that the UI is peripheral to
the user experience. You don't drive down the highway with your eyes glued
to the instrument panel -- you watch the road. It strikes me that the
tendency to ever more noisy and verbose interfaces may be a reflection of
this misconception. The job of the UI is not to be central to the user's
experience, by to get out of the way of the user's experience as much as it
possibly can.

No. The UI *is* the user experience. Interfaces are not just about being noisy or verbal. They are the contact between human and object. The job of the UI is to communicate clearly how that object it to be used. That communication has to be neither verbal nor written. But it *is* communication.

You point of view is evident in the statement about getting them "out of
the book and back to their task," but tech writers do more than just
producing books.

No, book here just stands in for whatever medium of instruction we are
foisting on the user today. My objection is to all the forms of look-at-me
intrusion into the user's experience by writers and UI designers who think
that the work that they are doing is central to the user's experience. It is
the sort of thinking that leads to Clippy and Microsoft Bob.

Good design--good communication design--doesn't intrude. It enables. It allows users to reach their goal without question, without straying down fasle paths.

I don't know why you think that a technical writer is fortunate to get to do
someone else's job instead of his own. I have never understood the
self-loathing of this profession. But if the intrusion of bored technical
writers into the UI design process leads to more of this sort of thing then
I say, stick to writing books. At least with a book I can put it on a shelf
out of my way.

What I'm curious about is why anyone would think that the job of a technical communicator is limited to writing books. I think the problem is those who would pigeonhole technical communicators in some little box, failing to understand the true nature of the discipline as a whole, and limiting the possibilities of what we can accomplish.

To writers and UI designers both I say this: You are the waiter, not the din
ner. I want you to be attentive when I need you, and out of sight when I
don't. Central to my experience are my meal and my companion. Your job is to
make sure that I get to enjoy them in peace.

Not at all the waiters. If you want to use the dining out analogy, than technical writers helped to design the tables and chairs and implements. They helped create the atmosphere and mood. They even wrote: the menus. If done correctly, the chairs will be comfortable and unobtrusive, the lighting will be correct for the mood, and you'll be free to concentrate on your goal: enjoying the meal.

Chuck Martin
User Assistance & Experience Engineer
twriter "at" sonic "dot" net

"I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.
The day may come when the courage of Men fail, when we forsake our
friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day!
This day, we fight!"
- Aragorn

"All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you."
- Gandalf


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waking up to the world of Technical Writing: From: T. Word Smith
Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing: From: Mark Baker
Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing: From: dmbrown

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