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Writing for better
user interfaces
Beth Aitman
@baitman
4th August 2016
In this talk
- Intro
- Why does writing in UIs matter?
- Types of writing:
- Naming things
- Adding extra information
Intr...
About me
- I’m a technical writer
- Embedded in software development teams
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Technical writing is evolving
- Used to be “write us a manual”
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Technical writing is evolving
- Used to be “write us a manual”
- Becoming “write help for the UI”
Intro - UI writing - Nam...
Technical writing is evolving
The goal: “help users understand and use UIs”
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Technical writing is evolving
My goal: “make UIs that are easy to understand and use”
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help -...
Why do the words in
UIs matter?
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Why do the words matter?
On a screen, you use words to find out what things are.
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summ...
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Why do the words matter?
Without physical cues, you need new ways of explaining.
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summ...
https://signalvnoise.com/posts/3404-reminder-design-is-still-about-words
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Words make UIs
meaningful
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Thinking about words helps you
make better UIs
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Thinking about writing
Writing makes you ask good questions.
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Thinking about writing
Questions about concepts:
- What’s this for again?
- Does this concept make sense?
- What does the ...
Thinking about writing
Questions about workflow:
- Could this workflow be simpler?
- Can we do work instead of the user?
-...
Writing to make UIs better
It’s not just about writing well. It’s about making good UIs.
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Hel...
Types of UI writing
Broadly, there are two:
1. Names of things
2. Extra help and information
Intro - UI writing - Naming -...
1. Naming things, or ‘microcopy’
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
2. Extra help and information
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
2. Extra help and information
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
First, naming things
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Skim-reading
Labels and buttons are the words that people are most likely to register.
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help ...
Naming things is hard!
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Three strategies for naming things
1. Think from the user perspective
2. Use terminology they can understand
3. Experiment...
1. Think from the user perspective
Name things from the outside of the UI.
What it does, not how it works.
Intro - UI writ...
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
2. Use terminology that users can understand
What do users call it?
What will they understand?
Do we need to name it at al...
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
3. Experiment with the phrasing
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
3. Experiment with the phrasing
Try explaining it in a sentence.
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
If it’s hard to name something - ask WHY
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Do as much in the naming as you can...
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Do as much in the naming as you can...
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
… and recognise when naming isn’t enou...
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Help and extra
information
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
What information to include
What do users need to know to complete their task?
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
What information to include
What do users need to know to complete their task?
Look at it from both sides:
- What informat...
Can we solve this better?
vs
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
What information to include
Can we make it so they need less information?
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Don’t show all the information you have
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Show help in the right place, at the right time
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Keep it structured and easy to read
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
Summing up: naming things
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
1. Name from the user perspective
2. Find the right...
Summing up: help and information
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
1. Work out what information users need
2. I...
Summing up: make better user interfaces
Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
1. Always question what you’re writin...
Thanks for having me!
Any questions?
Writing for better user interfaces (GDS)
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Writing for better user interfaces (GDS)

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Talk for the Government Digital Service content learning lunch, 4th August 2016.

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Writing for better user interfaces (GDS)

  1. 1. Writing for better user interfaces Beth Aitman @baitman 4th August 2016
  2. 2. In this talk - Intro - Why does writing in UIs matter? - Types of writing: - Naming things - Adding extra information Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  3. 3. About me - I’m a technical writer - Embedded in software development teams Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  4. 4. Technical writing is evolving - Used to be “write us a manual” Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  5. 5. Technical writing is evolving - Used to be “write us a manual” - Becoming “write help for the UI” Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  6. 6. Technical writing is evolving The goal: “help users understand and use UIs” Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  7. 7. Technical writing is evolving My goal: “make UIs that are easy to understand and use” Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  8. 8. Why do the words in UIs matter? Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  9. 9. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  10. 10. Why do the words matter? On a screen, you use words to find out what things are. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  11. 11. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  12. 12. Why do the words matter? Without physical cues, you need new ways of explaining. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  13. 13. https://signalvnoise.com/posts/3404-reminder-design-is-still-about-words Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  14. 14. Words make UIs meaningful Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  15. 15. Thinking about words helps you make better UIs Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  16. 16. Thinking about writing Writing makes you ask good questions. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  17. 17. Thinking about writing Questions about concepts: - What’s this for again? - Does this concept make sense? - What does the user know about it already? - Can we make it simpler? Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  18. 18. Thinking about writing Questions about workflow: - Could this workflow be simpler? - Can we do work instead of the user? - What happens when it goes wrong? - Can we avoid hitting errors? Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  19. 19. Writing to make UIs better It’s not just about writing well. It’s about making good UIs. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  20. 20. Types of UI writing Broadly, there are two: 1. Names of things 2. Extra help and information Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  21. 21. 1. Naming things, or ‘microcopy’ Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  22. 22. 2. Extra help and information Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  23. 23. 2. Extra help and information Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  24. 24. First, naming things Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  25. 25. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  26. 26. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  27. 27. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  28. 28. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  29. 29. Skim-reading Labels and buttons are the words that people are most likely to register. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  30. 30. Naming things is hard! Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  31. 31. Three strategies for naming things 1. Think from the user perspective 2. Use terminology they can understand 3. Experiment with phrasing Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  32. 32. 1. Think from the user perspective Name things from the outside of the UI. What it does, not how it works. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  33. 33. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  34. 34. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  35. 35. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  36. 36. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  37. 37. 2. Use terminology that users can understand What do users call it? What will they understand? Do we need to name it at all? Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  38. 38. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  39. 39. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  40. 40. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  41. 41. 3. Experiment with the phrasing Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  42. 42. 3. Experiment with the phrasing Try explaining it in a sentence. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  43. 43. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  44. 44. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  45. 45. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  46. 46. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  47. 47. If it’s hard to name something - ask WHY Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  48. 48. Do as much in the naming as you can... Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  49. 49. Do as much in the naming as you can... Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary … and recognise when naming isn’t enough.
  50. 50. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  51. 51. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  52. 52. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  53. 53. Help and extra information Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  54. 54. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  55. 55. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  56. 56. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  57. 57. What information to include What do users need to know to complete their task? Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  58. 58. What information to include What do users need to know to complete their task? Look at it from both sides: - What information can’t they do without? - What can we cut out? Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  59. 59. Can we solve this better? vs Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  60. 60. What information to include Can we make it so they need less information? Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  61. 61. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  62. 62. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  63. 63. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  64. 64. Don’t show all the information you have Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  65. 65. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  66. 66. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  67. 67. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  68. 68. Show help in the right place, at the right time Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  69. 69. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  70. 70. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  71. 71. Keep it structured and easy to read Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  72. 72. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  73. 73. Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary
  74. 74. Summing up: naming things Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary 1. Name from the user perspective 2. Find the right terminology for your users 3. Experiment with phrasing
  75. 75. Summing up: help and information Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary 1. Work out what information users need 2. If you can, make things simpler 3. Keep it minimal 4. Show it in the right place and time
  76. 76. Summing up: make better user interfaces Intro - UI writing - Naming - Help - Summary 1. Always question what you’re writing 2. Simpler things > good explanations 3. Keep fighting the good fight!
  77. 77. Thanks for having me! Any questions?

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