From a technical writer to a usability engineer


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a comparison of jobs of a technical writer and a usability engineer with a roadmap to transition.

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From a technical writer to a usability engineer

  1. 1. From a Technical Writer to a Usability Engineer Presented by / Bogo Vatovec Change Management / Knowledge Engineering / User Experience / Interaction Design / Process Engineering
  2. 2. Why do you want to do it? <ul><li>Because you are frustrated? </li></ul><ul><li>Nobody listens to you? </li></ul><ul><li>Nobody takes you seriously? </li></ul><ul><li>You only get the dirty editing work from the engineers? </li></ul><ul><li>WRONG. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why do you want to do it? <ul><li>Because you see a natural progression. </li></ul><ul><li>Because you are deeply interested in Human Computer Interaction. </li></ul><ul><li>Because you are passionate about your job and you are willing to spend lots of time learning. </li></ul>
  4. 4. What are you doing now? <ul><li>You are an advocate of the users </li></ul><ul><li>Analyze your audience </li></ul><ul><li>Analyze user goals and tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Develop a task oriented manual </li></ul><ul><li>Develop designs of manuals, online help, Web sites. </li></ul><ul><li>You are suggesting improvements to the user interface </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why is a move common? <ul><li>Similar goals and knowledge profiles </li></ul><ul><li>Similar believes and thinking </li></ul><ul><li>Good documentation adds to usability </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation is part of the product </li></ul><ul><li>Bad product is difficult to document </li></ul><ul><li>Text is an inseparable part of the interface </li></ul>
  6. 6. Areas of work <ul><li>Usability </li></ul><ul><li>User research & feedback </li></ul><ul><li>UI design and development </li></ul><ul><li>Usability evaluation </li></ul><ul><li>Usability engineering </li></ul><ul><li>Performance optimization </li></ul><ul><li>Web design and development </li></ul><ul><li>Technical writing </li></ul><ul><li>Instructional design </li></ul><ul><li>Printed documentation </li></ul><ul><li>Online documentation </li></ul><ul><li>Web design and writing </li></ul><ul><li>Editing </li></ul>
  7. 7. Skills <ul><li>Usability </li></ul><ul><li>Cognitive sciences </li></ul><ul><li>Interaction design </li></ul><ul><li>Visual design </li></ul><ul><li>Interviewing, observations, analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Technical writing </li></ul><ul><li>Instructional design </li></ul><ul><li>Interviewing </li></ul><ul><li>Writing and editing </li></ul><ul><li>Information design </li></ul><ul><li>Presentation media </li></ul>
  8. 8. Backgrounds <ul><li>Usability </li></ul><ul><li>Specialized programs </li></ul><ul><li>Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Computer science </li></ul><ul><li>Anthropology </li></ul><ul><li>Technical writing </li></ul><ul><li>Specialized programs </li></ul><ul><li>Languages </li></ul><ul><li>Computer science </li></ul><ul><li>Variety of social studies </li></ul>
  9. 9. Similarities and Differences <ul><li>Usability </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding the users </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on interaction design </li></ul><ul><li>Make things easy to use </li></ul><ul><li>Design the product and the interface </li></ul><ul><li>Technical writing </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding the users </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on instructional design </li></ul><ul><li>Explain how to do </li></ul><ul><li>Support the use of the product </li></ul>
  10. 10. Tasks of a usability engineer <ul><li>User goals/tasks analysis and profiling </li></ul><ul><li>Competition analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Product design and interface design </li></ul><ul><li>Prototyping and evaluations </li></ul><ul><li>Acceptance testing and evaluations </li></ul><ul><li>Post release evaluations </li></ul><ul><li>Consulting and training </li></ul><ul><li>Consultancy </li></ul>
  11. 11. Example profiles in usability
  12. 12. Profile:User researcher <ul><li>Typical background in psychology or cognitive sciences, communications. </li></ul><ul><li>Conducts observations, focus groups and surveys. Defines general user profiles, goals, needs and expectations. </li></ul><ul><li>Skills: research methods, reporting, presentation. </li></ul>Focuses on behavioral and general information about the users.
  13. 13. Profile: Information architect <ul><li>Focuses on information design and structuring. </li></ul><ul><li>Typical background in technical communications, journalism. </li></ul><ul><li>Defines content flow and structure. </li></ul><ul><li>Skills: information analysis and chunking, mental models, interaction design. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Profile: Interface designer Focuses on the interaction design and the interface. <ul><li>Typical background in HCI, cognitive psychology, computer sciences. </li></ul><ul><li>Defines interface interaction styles, elements, layouts. </li></ul><ul><li>Skills: interaction elements, mental models, platform specific guidelines. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Profile: Usability evaluator <ul><li>Focuses on evaluations of prototypes and interfaces. </li></ul><ul><li>Typical background: cognitive psychology. </li></ul><ul><li>Performes usability evaluations of the products, write reports and recommends improvements. </li></ul><ul><li>Skills: evaluating methods, report writing, presentations. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Profile: Visual designer <ul><li>Focuses on graphic design and icons. </li></ul><ul><li>Typical background: visual art, media and communications. </li></ul><ul><li>Design visual elements, icons and layouts. </li></ul><ul><li>Skills: graphic design, colors, human perception. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Skills to learn
  18. 18. Skills to learn (1) <ul><li>Ergonomics and human behavior </li></ul><ul><li>Cognitive sciences, human mental models </li></ul><ul><li>User centered design process and general software development process </li></ul><ul><li>Interaction theories, principles, guidelines </li></ul><ul><li>Contextual analysis skills, usability evaluations, surveys, assessments </li></ul><ul><li>Software tools </li></ul>
  19. 19. Skills to learn (2) <ul><li>Direct and indirect manipulation methods </li></ul><ul><li>Menu selections, form filling, dialog boxes </li></ul><ul><li>Interaction devices </li></ul><ul><li>Presentation styles </li></ul><ul><li>Integration of UI, online help, manuals </li></ul><ul><li>Various guidelines: Windows, Motif, OS/2, Macintosh, Web </li></ul>
  20. 20. What do you need to know about technology <ul><li>More than a technical writer, but less than a programmer. </li></ul><ul><li>Understand the concepts behind each technology </li></ul><ul><li>Understand the behavior as related to the user interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Understand the context of use – advantages and limitations </li></ul>
  21. 21. Steps in the Transition <ul><li>Get yourself a mentor </li></ul><ul><li>Decide which usability area suits you the most </li></ul><ul><li>Learn the necessary skills </li></ul><ul><li>Try to apply skills in practice </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare a new resume </li></ul><ul><li>Go out and look for a new job </li></ul>
  22. 22. Examples of tasks and process
  23. 23. Learning about your users <ul><li>Direct and indirect observations of users at workplace, home. </li></ul><ul><li>Broad surveys with questionnaires. </li></ul><ul><li>Working focus groups with users and other stakeholders. </li></ul><ul><li>Brainstorming with users and developers about user needs, design, functionality. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Analyzing and structuring the results <ul><li>Create user profiles/personas </li></ul><ul><li>Write scenarios of use </li></ul><ul><li>Create user/tasks matrix </li></ul><ul><li>Identify objects and actions from scenarios </li></ul><ul><li>Define behavior and attributes of the objects </li></ul>
  25. 25. Specifying the interface <ul><li>Write detailed use cases/user tasks instructions </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare interaction diagrams </li></ul><ul><li>Create first prototypes </li></ul><ul><li>Test prototypes with the users </li></ul><ul><li>Iteratively improve the prototypes </li></ul>
  26. 26. Usability evaluations <ul><li>Heuristic evaluation </li></ul><ul><li>Cognitive and pluralistic walkthroughs </li></ul><ul><li>Formal usability testing </li></ul><ul><li>Reports writing and recommendations </li></ul>
  27. 27. Consultancy work <ul><li>User research and behavior studies </li></ul><ul><li>External usability evaluations </li></ul><ul><li>Interface design </li></ul><ul><li>Training and courses on usability </li></ul><ul><li>Process and development consultancy </li></ul>
  28. 28. Recommended Links HCI Resources Network Keith Intone’s collection of topics on usability IBM's Human Factors web page. Good list of books about usability and design with descriptions. Jakob Nielsen's web site. A great site that explains multiple usability methods. Interesting site that collects information about usability and discusses the latest trends in the field. Bibliography of human-computer interaction publications and resources. Usability Professionals' Association web site.
  29. 29. Recommended Books and Articles <ul><li>Randolph G. Bias and Deborah J. Mayhew (Eds.) Cost-Justifying Usability . Boston: Academic Press, 1994. ISBN 0-12-095810-4. </li></ul><ul><li>Joseph S. Dumas and Janice C. Redish. A Practical Guide to Usability Testing . Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing, 1993. ISBN 0-89391-991-8. </li></ul><ul><li>JoAnn T. Hackos and Janice C. Redish. User and Task Analysis for Interface Design . New York: Wiley, 1998. ISBN 0-471-17831-4. </li></ul><ul><li>Robert R. Johnson. User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts . New York: State University of New York Press, 1998. ISBN 0-7914-3932-1 (paperback). </li></ul><ul><li>Donald A. Norman. The Psychology of Everyday Things . New York: Basic Books, 1988. ISBN 0-465-06709-3. Also published as The Design of Everyday Things, 1990, Doubleday ISBN 0-385-26774-6 (paperback). </li></ul><ul><li>Jeffrey Rubin. Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests . New York: Wiley, 1994. ISBN 0-471-59403-2. </li></ul><ul><li>Barbara Mirel. Product, Process and Profit: The Politics of Usability in a Software Venture. ACM Journal of Computer Documentation, Volume 24, Number 4, (November 2000) </li></ul><ul><li>Ben Schneiderman. Designing the User Interface. Addison Wesley, (1998). </li></ul>
  30. 30. Thanks! Bogo Vatovec Consulting Office Gabriel-Max-Str. 20 / 10245 Berlin T +49 30 20078666 / F +49 30 20078661 / M +49 174 1730406 / © Bogo Vatovec Consultig
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