Re: Interface editing

Subject: Re: Interface editing
From: jimmy -at- breck-mckye -dot- com
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 07 Jan 2012 21:04:54 +0000

Hi CJ - I'm not sure if you'll get this message, as my mailserver has
been playing up, but here's my advice anyway - as a technical writer
who became a user experience designer, starting, as you have, by
editing interface text.

I'm trying to explain to my boss that I'm do more than just write
documentation. I take the interface that the programmer and the
designer have created and I edit the on-screen language, button
and field names and change placement of items on
the screen. I also edit the text of the error messages to make
them more helpful for the users. I don't want to call it
interface design because the designer came
up with the look & feel and the programmer uses it.

There doesn't have to be one 'designer'. In my eyes, what you're
doing is user experience. You are thinking about the user's tasks,
priorities, working situation and pain points, and re-writing UI
text accordingly. If you're performing the typical research tasks of a
technical author (recognizing use cases and building personas),
you're already doing most of what a UX professional does.

More importantly, 'user experience designer' is the keyword that
your boss and future employers will have been primed to respond to.
And it's accurate. Are you uncomfortable because you think a designer
has to be a *visual* designer? Well, if as a technical author, you
use formatting to establish visual semantics, and indentation to
establish hierarchies of content, you're more than qualified.
That's the kind of thinking that makes a visual designer, not

I'm not doing any direct testing with users (nor am I focusing
on special needs users) so I hesitate to call it usability.

You're making a product more usable. No, you aren't doing
usability sessions, but neither do a lot of designers in time-
and budget-pressured projects.

Really, I think a lot of tech. writers could benefit from
identifying themselves as usability professionals. Usability
is a very vibrant field with a lot of opportunities,
and involves a lot of disciplines worth learning from.
More cynically, if technical writing jobs become more scarce in
your area, it's always nice to have a second card to play.

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