Re: This too is technical communication

Subject: Re: This too is technical communication
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: Chris Borokowski <athloi -at- yahoo -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 01 Jun 2007 20:36:31 -0700

Chris Borokowski wrote:
> Technical writers link user to goal via product. This
> is where their information architecture skills come
> into play,

I've been following this discussion and I think that Chris is expressing
a view that technical writers have critical thinking skills in the user
interface department and should be included in that UI design effort. I
personally don't want any part of that battle, at least not as a
responsibility of mine when I take short-term contract work, but I will
sometimes write my interface comments and give them to the product
manager as added value, something that the product team can consider in
the next release. But go-l-l-y, I do see a lot of real bonehead
interface design errors built into products that did not have the
benefit of a good UI designer.

I hate to reveal my lack of currency on the subject, but I'll do it as a
sacrifice to the hoary gods of GUI design. I've always admired Alan
Cooper's work, a designer who had a strong sense along the lines of the
original Macintosh UI. He also created and sold to Microsoft their first
graphical programming environment, the one that became Visual Basic, if
that is a familiar point of reference to tech writers.

A quick poke around on turned up a ready bit of advice I like
from a designer, but it is applicable for tech writers too:

The first line of "Interview Tips..." by Chris Noessel rings the bell
for me:

"Goal-Directed Design necessarily involves first-hand research with
real-world users."

I am also taken with the first line of tip #6:

"Interview participants are often selected because of their expertise,
and they may find it difficult to recall what itâs like /not/ to know
their domain."

I think this is the soul of tech writing. The heart of tech writing
(what's a sacrifice without the heart ) is, of course, that they'll have
a hard time saying what they know, and that information won't be
accounted for in the design unless the designer (ahem, tech writer) can
get it out of them.

Have fun.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

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RE: This too is technical communication: From: Chris Borokowski

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