RE: Tech Writing a Growing Field?

Subject: RE: Tech Writing a Growing Field?
From: Chris Borokowski <athloi -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2007 06:37:20 -0700 (PDT)

Good question, and I'm glad you asked. A
user-advocate, design-centric viewpoint means: we
start from the design principle of how our software
will be used, and bypass many of the existing
archetypes if necessary. Growth means escaping old
paradigms, like snakes escaping old skins. Too often
products are shipped based on the last generation's
paradigm, and so put the users through a series of
boring tasks that are unrelated to the actual goal.

In another way of seeing it, every software product
lies between two points: the people using it, and the
goal of what it produces. That alone should influence
design. Even more, sensible UI design dovetails with
sensible product design in that it reduces software
from complex options to task-based processes. One
example might be the word processor, which evolved
from the paper-layout paradigm to a
document-containership one (some are evolving slower
than others). Too much of software ignores its actual
uses in favor of some apocryphal marketing speak,
archaic presumptions, or most commonly, lack of a
concept of how it would be used. Design-centric
thinking gets away from this peripheral confusion.

I like the term "technical communications," but in my
mind the field is more than that. We're user advocates
-- we want to simplify and make more effective every
product we touch, and produce simpler and more
effective documentation for it. Our goal is to destroy
confusion and ambiguity. We're also UI creators, but
too ofen, UI design is contingent upon quality product
design -- if the product is coded around the wrong
processes for its intended use, or its design is
ignorant of common methods, it will be awkward to use
in the way it is most commonly used. Our goal is also
to make sure the obscure users are protected; these
are the guys doing something "slightly different" at
3am before a career-making presentation. And as people
who know both technology and users, we're a bridge
between product creation (through sensible design, and
not passing on archaic paradigms in updated form) and
UI creation (through sensible design according to the
tasks for which it will actually be used, not
marketing speak or archaic paradigms).

The above barely says what I hoped it would, and it's
a book in itself. I recommend anyone thinking along
these lines to ready Grady Booch and Christopher
Alexander, who are two advocates of both user-based
and design-centric thinking. These topics, like data
containership (XML, et al) have been with us for some
time but are still at a nascent stage of development.
My goal is to bring them together into a more powerful
role for technical communicators, where we can have
positive impacts on design and user experiences as
well as generate usable documentation, which is a goal
in itself.

--- Gordon McLean <Gordon -dot- McLean -at- GrahamTechnology -dot- com>

> Fascinating stuff and I completely agree.
> Chris - can you clarify what you mean when you say
> "user-advocate,
> design-centric viewpoint".
> I presume you are referring to the 'non-writing'
> parts of being a technical
> writer, the times when you sit with the developers
> and annoy and hassle them
> because the "user wouldn't do it like that"?
> It's funny reading these emails, as I've always
> presumed that the role of
> technical writing isn't really about 'writing' all
> that much (these days)
> and is why I've pushed to change job and team titles
> away from "writing" or
> "publications" to "communications". It's a small
> thing, but I think it
> breaks the "document monkeys" label a lot of people
> still have in their
> heads.

User Interface design blog

Get your own web address.
Have a HUGE year through Yahoo! Small Business.

Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

Now shipping: Help &amp; Manual 4 with RoboHelp(r) import! New editor,
full Unicode support. Create help files, web-based help and PDF in up
to 106 languages with Help &amp; Manual:

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

RE: Tech Writing a Growing Field?: From: Gordon McLean

Previous by Author: RE: Tech Writing a Growing Field?
Next by Author: RE: Tech Writing a Growing Field?
Previous by Thread: Re: Tech Writing a Growing Field?
Next by Thread: Re: Tech Writing a Growing Field?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads