Re: Technical writing, usability, GUI design, and how they fit together - your opinion is needed

Subject: Re: Technical writing, usability, GUI design, and how they fit together - your opinion is needed
From: Keith Hood <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Robert Fekete <fekete77 -dot- robert -at- gmail -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 22:20:33 -0700 (PDT)

It's been several years since I worked in software development projects, but my experience with this was in companies that did it wrong.  The where I worked never had usability engineers and never did any specific usability testing.  The reason why was always the same - saving payroll dollars.


None of my employers ever did any actual GUI mockups or reviews.  The GUIs were never considered a deliverable in and of themselves, and they were never handled as goals in the planing.  They were always just something that had to be cobbled together in order to provide controls that worked according to the requirements (which were almost never set down on paper).  I had more than one supervisor tell me it didn't matter, any user level problems would come out in the feedback they got from the customers and they'd fix it in the next scheduled release 6 months down the road.


All the places I worked in software, I did online help systems by actually working with the GUIs.  I don't know how many times I had QA people or programmers look at the help and ask me, "You mean it really did that?"  And I would have to confirm that yes, what I wrote in the help was what I had actually seen right in front of my eyes.  My help system was their only form of usability testing.  I constantly had to go back and change the help because after looking at it, the programmers would realize that things were not acting the way they thought should happen, and they had to modify the code, which meant I had to rewrite the help and retake screen caps etcetera ad nauseum.  I had to work with programmers who had apparently never actually test-driven their own product, and the first time they found out something wasn't working the way they wanted was two weeks after the build when I sent them a copy of the CHM file.


The many times I tried, I never had any luck getting the rest of the team to allow me to have any say in GUI design, not even so much as being involved in deciding what labels to put on GUI buttons.  That's probably as much my fault as anyone's - I'm not a warm and cuddly type of person.



________________________________
From: Robert Fekete <fekete77 -dot- robert -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 10:20 AM
Subject: Technical writing, usability, GUI design, and how they fit together - your opinion is needed

Dear Wise Ones,

At the company I work at - mostly a techwriter - I ran into a
difficult situation, and would greatly appreciate your collective
input and experience on it.

Currently, GUI design is mostly left to our developers, who usually
come up with less than usable interfaces, probably because they are
programmers and think like programmers, ignoring the users' point of
view. My fellow techwriter and me keep complaining about the sloppy
interface designs and usability, but can't really get our message
across: the interface should be designed by someone thinking as a
user, and working closely with the techwriters to make the GUI labels
understandable. (Correcting interface texts is important because the
English skills of our developers leave room for improvement (mine as
well, but that's a different problem ).)

So, what is your experience?

As technical writers, what is your relationship to product usability
and GUI/interface design?
Which group/department is involved in UI design/usability at your company?
Who has the final word about the design (including GUI texts)?
Is there a dedicated UI designer / usability expert for each product?
How much control (language, and so on) do you (or someone else) have
over the plans / mockups?
At which point of the design do you review the interface, if ever?

We plan to use your answers to show "how other companies are doing it".

Thank you very for your help in advance.

Kind Regards,

Robert

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Create and publish documentation through multiple channels with Doc-To-Help. Choose your authoring formats and get any output you may need.

Try Doc-To-Help, now with MS SharePoint integration, free for 30-days.

http://bit.ly/doc-to-help

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

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Looking for articles on Technical Communications? Head over to our online magazine at http://techwhirl.com

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References:
Technical writing, usability, GUI design, and how they fit together - your opinion is needed: From: Robert Fekete

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