UX and Technical CommunicationUX and Technical Communication
Bridging the GapBridging the Gap
Christopher S. LaRoche
UX Pr...
Welcome & Introduction
• My background and place in both worlds
• This lecture’s looooong evolution
• Contents and main po...
Historical Connections and Ties
• The connection with User-Centered Design (UCD) and the
focus on the user is the most obv...
Historical Connections and Ties
• In many ways the usability community/groups are where
technical communication groups wer...
Increasing Collaboration/Merging of Fields
• The last decade has seen a real movement towards the
consolidation of ‘common...
Increasing Collaboration/Merging of Fields
• Usability/documentation teams often are tied together by a
common interest in...
Increasing Collaboration/Merging of Fields
• Technical communication can often use valuable
information that usability tea...
Changes in the TC Profession – Why?
• Structurally, technical communication has been changing
the last decade for a variet...
Practical Examples of Usability
• Perform various tests/reviews of specific documentation,
such as an installation guide, ...
Content Strategy
Technical Communication in this New World
• Although content strategy has been growing in increasing
impo...
Content Strategy
Technical Communication in this New World
• Broadly speaking, content strategy is the idea and view of
ha...
How This Could Influence Our Work
• Taken to the extreme, a totally usable product would not
require any documentation, bu...
How This Could Influence Our Work
Future Required Skill Sets
• Traditional technical communication skills are demanded
and...
Future of Usability – General
• There has been explosive growth of the field of UX and
usability the last decade – and con...
Future of Usability - Demographics
• The demographics of user communities will play a huge role
in the evolution of design...
Future of Usability - Demographics
• How each of these demographic groups view technology in
their lives is quite differen...
Future of Usability – My Reflections
• Things have become more usable the last decade – a
general understanding of basic W...
Conclusion
• The growth and interest in usability has increased greatly
the last decade and will continue. Technical commu...
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UX and Technical Communication: Bridging the Gap

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  • Given many lectures/presentations on this topicOver the last decade UX, usability, and content strategy evolved as a critical parts of component of product development - Saw many overlapping connections/history between the goals and needs of the two groups - Usability = ‘differentiator’ - Technical Communications = ‘needed evil’- Companies recently putting these two groups together – and the rise of Content Strategy is an indication…
  • Gen Y – Google is there reference,
  • UX and Technical Communication: Bridging the Gap

    1. 1. UX and Technical CommunicationUX and Technical Communication Bridging the GapBridging the Gap Christopher S. LaRoche UX Practitioner by Day & Senior Lecturer by Night MS in Technical Communication Program College of Professional Studies (CPS) Northeastern University April 8, 2014 Copyright © 2014 - Christopher S. LaRoche
    2. 2. Welcome & Introduction • My background and place in both worlds • This lecture’s looooong evolution • Contents and main point of this lecture today • Historical connections between the fields • Increasing collaboration • Changes in the technical communication profession • Content strategy’s rise • How this influences both groups work • The future…
    3. 3. Historical Connections and Ties • The connection with User-Centered Design (UCD) and the focus on the user is the most obvious connection since this goal is the over riding theme of both groups. – Traditionally, technical communication tends to be involved towards the end of the development cycle when the user interface is somewhat stable. Often involved earlier, but the end of development cycle is where we are primarily – the ‘crunch time.’ – Depending on the type of usability methods you perform, it could be a various times in the development cycle (user research, testing, etc.). – Quite often, you can obtain valuable user feedback from usability tests that you can incorporate into documentation – or take out information that is not used based on solid numerical feedback.
    4. 4. Historical Connections and Ties • In many ways the usability community/groups are where technical communication groups were two decades ago. No obvious ‘home’ in the company’s organizational structure. • Been a real growth spurt in UX usability awareness/people. Usability groups are still immature in the following ways: – Where does a usability group fit in an organizational structure? – What to call a usability group? Usability, User Experience, UX, Information Design, Interaction Design, Human Factors, Design, etc. • This is a more settled question in technical communication groups today.
    5. 5. Increasing Collaboration/Merging of Fields • The last decade has seen a real movement towards the consolidation of ‘common communication functions’ the past few years – and will continue even more quickly. • Technical communication, training, and usability/user experience are often together as one group/organization. • Although part of this consolidation is due to cost savings (less writers), some of the unknown or unintended benefits include that with this closer working relationship, we can often uncover more issues that directly affect users when our resources are ‘pooled’ or shared – content strategy evolved out of this
    6. 6. Increasing Collaboration/Merging of Fields • Usability/documentation teams often are tied together by a common interest in creating a usable interface – both better for the user and requires less documentation. • The better the product is designed from the beginning, the less documentation is required, and so easier job it is for the writer and also for the user – satisfaction all around! • The merging of documentation/training/UX folks is happening more quickly in more non-traditional companies that tend to be more collaborative and less traditionally ‘siloed.’ For example, many companies are now renaming the role of ‘technical writer/technical communicator’ to a more UX-related terminology.
    7. 7. Increasing Collaboration/Merging of Fields • Technical communication can often use valuable information that usability teams often have, including: – Contact information to interview and talk with real users – Feedback that users have given previously about the product, their ‘pain points’ and often feedback about the documentation itself – Vast array of usability reports and reviews of the product that can focus what areas need more/less documentation • Often technical communication can help the usability team with understanding the technical angle of the software and discuss in detail where issues exist within the product.
    8. 8. Changes in the TC Profession – Why? • Structurally, technical communication has been changing the last decade for a variety of reasons:  Compressed development cycles  Commodification of TC  Outsourcing (domestic and abroad)  Reduced resource allocation for TC  Higher demands for user satisfaction  Reducing delivered content requirement (both from a cost and volume perspective)  More increase in awareness and ‘buy in’ of UX and Content Strategy – offer solutions to management
    9. 9. Practical Examples of Usability • Perform various tests/reviews of specific documentation, such as an installation guide, to see if it is written according to how a user will actually install a product and if the content is correct. This is one of the best first examples to study/analyze and see how people use the documentation. • Surveys of customers are often the most time and cost efficient methods to understand needs and the most pressing issues that users encounter. • Interview users of a product to see how they work with the software in reality – and for example how/if/when they use the documentation for the product.
    10. 10. Content Strategy Technical Communication in this New World • Although content strategy has been growing in increasing importance the last few years, it is only starting to influence and make in roads within the technical communications areas. • The other content areas of organizations (marketing, customer support, public relations, etc.) have really adapted many tenants of content strategy, but often due to the volume of technical documentation, that has been the last content entity confronted with content strategy.
    11. 11. Content Strategy Technical Communication in this New World • Broadly speaking, content strategy is the idea and view of having all organizational content (marketing, support documentation, editorial, traditional technical communication, etc.) delivered to (primarily) external audiences in a consistent, clear, and efficient manner. • in Ginny Redish’s Letting Go of the Words book is a great bridge between traditional technical communication and the new world of content strategy and online content.
    12. 12. How This Could Influence Our Work • Taken to the extreme, a totally usable product would not require any documentation, but realistically that will not happen with complex products. • However, having software that is designed by usability professionals and not engineers will result in better products that are easier to document. • Although it could be considered a threat, this is also a great opportunity in that we can learn something additional, add to our portfolio of skills, and might just help one stay employed in a tough economy – knowing basics of UX and usability is a differentiator when getting hired.
    13. 13. How This Could Influence Our Work Future Required Skill Sets • Traditional technical communication skills are demanded and required: solid writing skills, technological inquisitiveness, critical thinking, etc. • Understanding UX and Content Strategy is becoming increasingly requested/required • Documentation continues to exist – but must be radically different than have been done in the past: streamlined, visuals, videos, etc. • More words or another user manual is not an option!
    14. 14. Future of Usability – General • There has been explosive growth of the field of UX and usability the last decade – and continues to explode. • The level of information available to all will continue to increase for the immediate future. Expect much more of our information to “be born and live” online. • Technical communicators have been striving for usability and usable documentation for a very long time. • Having some usability experience – such as helping with a usability test or performing the User Edit – is often a great additional piece of experience to have.
    15. 15. Future of Usability - Demographics • The demographics of user communities will play a huge role in the evolution of design and what/how things are deemed ‘usable’ over the next few years. • Remember these are the various demographic groups: — Gen Y/Millennial – 18-32 years old — Gen X – 33-49 years old — Baby Boomers – 50-65 years old • These ages are somewhat porous and not specific, but are a general clustering of the demographics of the individual groups.
    16. 16. Future of Usability - Demographics • How each of these demographic groups view technology in their lives is quite different. The difference between the Baby Boomers and Gen Y is extreme. Prepare yourself for how to deal with that in the design and delivery of usable products and documentation! • In raw numbers (both US and worldwide), Gen Y is bigger than Baby Boomers. Within a decade they will be a bigger and more influential group. Don’t tolerate bad design. • Gen X is the smallest of these groups, though their views are often most represented in designs and products today since they are the group making the products, determining designs, and managing most today.
    17. 17. Future of Usability – My Reflections • Things have become more usable the last decade – a general understanding of basic Windows commands and using browsers is often assumed. • There is an expectation that more products and services are usable – including documentation. Expect more demands for more usable and streamlined documentation. • The Nest thermostat is a great example of current consumer product and their documentation (videos). • The era of ‘just in case documentation’ has ended; while the era of ‘just enough documentation’ has dawned.
    18. 18. Conclusion • The growth and interest in usability has increased greatly the last decade and will continue. Technical communication is linked into this field and will probably be more so in the future. • There are many historical and practical connections between the two fields and many former writers migrate into UX. • Learning the basics of UX will not only help you with better job opportunities, but also help understand ways to learn about user needs more clearly.

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