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User-centered Design for Technical Communicators


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This presentation explains user-centered design, explores how UCD principles can help technical communicators create better deliverables, and suggests ways that technical communicators can offer their skills to strengthen existing UCD processes in their workplaces.

Presented at a meeting of the Atlanta Chapter of the STC on October 27, 2009.

Published in: Design, Technology, Education

User-centered Design for Technical Communicators

  1. 1. User-centered designA road map to usability<br />Society for Technical Communication<br /> Atlanta Chapter<br />October 27, 2009<br />THE TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION EDITION<br />
  2. 2. What is user-centered design?<br />How can user-centered design principles be applied to technical communication?<br />Where can technical communicators add value to a user-centered design process?<br />
  3. 3. What isuser-centereddesign?<br />
  4. 4. But first, a caveat in the formof a visual cliché<br />
  5. 5. User-centered design is an approach to design that grounds the process in information about the people who will use the product.<br />What is User-Centered Design? Usability Professionals Association<br /><br />
  6. 6. User-centered design looks like this.<br />
  7. 7. User-centered designis common sense.<br />Image by malias (flickr)<br />
  8. 8. User-centered designis common sense.<br />Image by malias (flickr)<br />
  9. 9. ethnography<br />audience analysis<br />user research<br />requirements gathering<br />Phase 1: Analysis<br />design research<br />project definition<br />contextual inquiry<br />field studies<br />
  10. 10. ethnography<br />audience analysis<br />user research<br />requirements gathering<br />Know your audience.<br />design research<br />project definition<br />contextual inquiry<br />field studies<br />
  11. 11. Listen to people who mightuse your design.<br />Image by victoriapeckham (flickr)<br />
  12. 12. That’s probably not the peoplewho are paying you.<br />Image by llawliet (flickr)<br />
  13. 13. That’s probably not the peoplewho are paying you.<br />MY CAREER<br />SCHEDULE<br />BUDGET<br />LUNCH<br />nom nom nom<br />They’re thinking about a lot more than the users. <br />Image by llawliet (flickr)<br />
  14. 14. “But getting accessto real, live usersis almost impossibleat my company!”<br />
  15. 15. “Change isn’t made by asking permission. Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.”<br />
  16. 16. Tap into existing channels.<br />
  17. 17. You have more access to peoplethan you realize.<br />
  18. 18. When you have enough data, look for patterns.<br />
  19. 19. Represent patterns with personas.<br />Ethel Le Duc<br />82 years old<br />Ethel spent her adult life as a stay-at-home mother and wife. Now, she is proud of being a “grr-grandma.” <br />Having come of age during the Great Depression, Ethel is resourceful and spunky. She doesn’t shy away from any challenges, and she’s not afraid to try to learn new things—though she’s not as quick a study as she once was.<br />Why she got a cell phone: Safety while traveling<br />How she uses her cell phone:<br />Calling a select set of contacts (friends and family)<br />
  20. 20. Every decision should directly benefit one of your personas.<br />Can it make phone calls?<br />Can Ethel make <br />calls with it?<br />
  21. 21. How many targets can you hit?<br />Hint: <br />It’s probably about three.<br />Image by TheMarque (flickr)<br />
  22. 22. Phase 2: Design<br />
  23. 23. First, put away your safety blanket. <br />Tools are tactical. Design is strategic.<br />
  24. 24. Look at the big picture first.<br />Information architecture?<br />Card sorting?<br />Learn more at the<br />STC AtlantaUsability Workshop<br />on November 14 for only $25!<br />Image by meaduva (flickr)<br />
  25. 25. Quickly sketch multiple ideas.<br />Image by Mike Rohde (flickr)<br />
  26. 26. Then throw most of them away.<br />Image by Myrone (flickr)<br />
  27. 27. Don’t design for nonsense! <br />Interested in <br />content strategy?<br />Join the new <br />STC Content Strategy SIG!<br /><br />
  28. 28. And don’t forget Ethel.<br />
  29. 29. Phase 3: Evaluate<br />
  30. 30. Know your limitations.<br />
  31. 31. Validate designs early and often.<br />Validate the foundation before you raise the walls.<br />Image by geocam20000 (flickr)<br />
  32. 32. Show your draft sketches.<br />Perfection is not just highly overrated;<br />it’s counter-productive.<br />
  33. 33. Vet your designs with real users.<br />Run a usability test?<br />We’re teaching that in the <br />STC Atlanta <br />Usability Workshop!<br />November 14—only $25!<br />
  34. 34. Rinse. Repeat.<br />In a healthy process, you’ll cycle throughdesign and evaluation several times.<br />
  35. 35. Phase 4: Deploy<br />
  36. 36. Image by wili_hybrid (flickr)<br />
  37. 37. Deploying is only the beginning.<br />Listen for reactions in the marketplace,and correct as often as you can.<br />
  38. 38. Uncle__Jimbo and friends can do a lot of damage to your brand.<br />
  39. 39. Recap: User-centered design<br />
  40. 40. “Hey, cool! <br />We already dosome of that!”<br />
  41. 41. Design without analysiswon’t solve the right problems.<br />You need to know why they want to fire a gun.<br />
  42. 42. Evaluation without designwill find obvious flaws.<br />Testing what’s obviously broken is a waste of time.<br />
  43. 43. Deployment without evaluationwill disappoint your customers.<br />Don’t makeEthel cry. It’s not goodfor business.<br />
  44. 44. “I’m way too busy already to do<br />all of that!”<br />
  45. 45. Focus on analysis.<br />Solid user researchwill carry you a long way.<br />
  46. 46. How canuser-centered design principles be appliedto technical communication?<br />
  47. 47. Base your audience analysis on more than assumptions.<br />Image by victoriapeckham (flickr)<br />
  48. 48. Quickly sketch your ideas.<br />For technical communication, this means:<br /><ul><li>Outline conceptual topics
  49. 49. Sketch flow charts of procedures
  50. 50. Rough out document structures</li></ul>… and then show them to stakeholders.<br />Image by Mike Rohde (flickr)<br />
  51. 51. Actively fight writer’s block.<br />Write fast, even if it’s crap.<br />You’ll have plenty of time to edit later.<br />
  52. 52. Edit ruthlessly.<br />Image by Myrone (flickr)<br />
  53. 53. Create opportunities to see real people use the documentation.<br />
  54. 54. Where cantechnical communicatorsadd value to auser-centereddesign process?<br />
  55. 55. Help with user research.You’re skilled at understanding audiences, and writing personas will come easily.<br />Image by victoriapeckham (flickr)<br />
  56. 56. Help designers with task analysis.<br />You need it to document well,and designers need it to design well. <br />
  57. 57. Offer to review early design sketches.You’ve documented enough UI to develop a sixth sense for quality.<br />Image by Mike Rohde (flickr)<br />
  58. 58. Seize control of on-screen text.<br />You don’t write Ruby or Perl. Why should engineers write English?<br />
  59. 59. If usability testing isn’t partof your process, introduce it.<br />Sign up for the<br />STC Atlanta <br />Usability Workshop <br />tonight!<br />November 14—only $25!<br />
  60. 60. In all things,<br />advocate for the user.<br />Champion their best interests,and your impact on usabilitywill be undeniable.<br />
  61. 61. Thank you.<br />Will Sansbury<br /><br /><br />@willsansbury<br />