Typically, a writer has a goal to accomplish when they are creating a new document. However, when the writer is only focused on getting their message across, an important piece of the moment is lost for the user.
An instruction manual that is too complicated, an email without a clear message, or a training program without sufficient detail and guidance: these are all examples of documents that were created without regard to the user’s experience. When the words “usability” and “user experience” are used, many people incorrectly assume that these terms only apply to electronics, computer software, websites, or in-store customer service. The problem with this idea is that the end user’s experience should always be considered a priority, no matter what the medium is or who the user is—whether they are a colleague, customer, contractor, third party, or anyone else.
Rather than solely focusing on getting our point of view or ideas across, we should also focus on how the user will interact with the document and what would be most helpful to them. For instance, if we created a set of instructions for a new employee, but the instructions use (and do not define) several acronyms and jargon that the new employee doesn't yet understand, then this document will not be helpful. Instead, all of the acronyms and jargon should be defined and explained on their first reference. This is one small example of many; errors like this are common, especially when documents are created by subject matter experts who cannot readily identify the knowledge gaps of others and who do not focus on usability.
Once we consider the user’s experience, we may discover that our documents are not sufficient. The documents may have captured everything we intended to say, but if the user is confused or frustrated, then the document is not successful. When you create your next document, imagine yourself on the receiving end, and tailor your document to the user’s experience to create a successful, usable product.
If you're in need of technical writing or a usability analysis, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 972-454-0151, or by completing our Project Inquiry Form on our website.