Writing for Reader Experience

Society of Technical Communication (STC) Intercom Magazine contained the article cited below describing how we technical writers should present information to users. Today’s emphasis has shifted from cost-efficient content management to consumer experience. Our job is to delight users and simplify the message. Ways to do this include:

> Invert the relationship between text and image. Choose key images first then choose text to support the image.  Start with a screenshot, insert numbered callouts and write a very brief action for each numbered item.

>Do not waste the reader’s time with instructions for intuitive GUI (Graphical User Interface-the window) buttons and menus. Your reader is already overloaded with information and just has a task s/he needs to know how to accomplish.

>Ignore constraints of tools for maintaining content, such as DITA or XML. Reused content has no context, is repetitive and boring.

>Optimize for the web, not for PDFs.

>Use a clean page layout, sharp photographs and screenshots and lots of white space to make your information easy to consume.

Make connecting with you users your first priority.  Start by asking them what they need.

Another note about DITA, XML and what version of Adobe software you last used. In my job hunting experience, tool proficiency interferes with the hiring process, making it difficult to hire non-writers who have so much knowledge to add but no authoring platform experience.  For myself, I have 35 years experience writing documentation,  Web Design Certification and a comprehensive online portfolio, but recruiters invariably ask what version of FrameMaker, Captivate, etc. I last used.

Reference: STC Intercom February 2015 issue, Writer’s Block: How to Write Content That Delights, and Why We So Often Don’t by Barry Grenon