Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing

Subject: Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing
From: dmbrown -at- brown-inc -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2004 11:58:59 -0700

Wow, you can't go away for more than a few minutes before someone calls you names...

The fortunate tech writers are increasingly involved in development of the
UI--at least in terms of command names, object labels, tool tips, and the
like; sometimes even in workflow design.
That's very much central to the user experience.

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.

I think this is a *very* shaky analogy, but I'll try to stick with it.

A poorly designed instrument panel makes you look all over the place, peer around the steering wheel to see the speedometer or gas guage, and generally spend much too long with your eyes *off* the road. A well designed instrument panel makes it easy for you to take in all the information you need in the least possible time.

I enjoy having a say in the design of the instrument panel...along with the placement and ease of use of the rear-view mirrors, the steering wheel, the seat adjustment mechanisms, the music system controls, and all the other things that might otherwise distract me from the primary task: staying between the stripes.

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.

Clearly we have different definitions of "user experience." For me, it includes every moment the user is interacting with the software, from before installation through the last time she shuts it down. here just stands in for whatever medium of instruction we are
foisting on the user today.

"Foisting"? I don't foist anything on the user. I make the UI as intuitive as possible and, where it's needed, I make additional information as accessible as possible.

That's not "foisting," that's "supporting."

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.

Again, we must have different definitions of "user experience." In my experience, the UI is about 97% of the user experience.

Also, who said anything at about "look-at-me intrusion"? I'll bet you haven't seen anything I've created, so let's avoid the generalizations, shall we?

It is the sort of thinking that leads to Clippy and Microsoft Bob.


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.

Who the heck are you to tell me why I'm interested in UI design?!

I think a tech writer who gets to do what I do is fortunate for a couple of reasons: (1) I really like what I do. (2) I'm more valuable to my client or employer if I can help design the application in a way that makes it easier to use, so the user doesn't have to constantly refer to online help or user's guide to figure it out, especially since most of them don't bother--they just call Support, which costs a *lot* more money than if the investment in good design is made at the beginning of the process.

As for "self-loathing"...whoa. Don't lay *your* problem on *me*, pal!

I do what I do because I like it, I'm pretty good at it, and people pay me really well to do it for them or advise them on how to do it.

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.

Yet another *really* shaky analogy...cute, but hardly apropos.



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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
Re: waking up to the world of Technical Writing: From: Mark Baker

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