The worlds of technical communication and usability have charted parallel paths, with shared goals and techniques. Unfortunately, those paths were often kept apart artificially, with "documentation" kept separate from "the interface." But, as it has changed so many things, the web has also brought different disciplines together - including skills in content, information design, information architecture, and interaction design.
The need to understand not only usability in general, but also the usable design of technical communication is especially true when the content of the web site is standards and guidelines. Fortunately, we have a large body of work from the technical communication field to fall back on, with many people working in both documentation, software design, and usability.
This talk will look at some of the work in the field of technical communication that can shed light on what it takes to create standards that readers can put into action. The goal is to raise issues that can be helpful in the work of this group in making the W3C specifications more usable…and through this improvement, also improve the web sites and software based on these guidelines.
Some of the topics to be covered will include:
The minimalist movement in documentation, supporting "reading to learn to do"
Design heuristics for documentation, looking at user goals for finding information
The difference between task oriented and content oriented documents
Issues in document design and style guides that affect usability
Whitney Quesenbery is a user interface designer, design process consultant and an expert in developing new concepts that achieve the goal of meeting business, user and technology needs. Her user interface designs include award winning multimedia products, user interfaces, web sites, and software applications. A key player in the development of the LUCID Framework, she helps companies implement a user experience capability to improve the usability of their products.
As a principal at Cognetics Corporation, she was the design leader for many design and usability projects. Her projects ranged from the original HP LaserJet 4 Travel Guide to hospital management software, web applications and corporate information tools for companies such as Novartis, Deloitte Consulting, Lucent, McGraw-Hill, Siemens, Hewlett-Packard, and Dow Jones.
Whitney is active in the user experience community as member of the Board of Directors for UPA the UXNet Executive Committee, as the manager of the Usability SIG, where she is also the webmaster for its popular web site. Her article "On Beyond Help - User Assistance and the User Interface" in STC's Technical Communication journal was awarded a 2001 Frank R. Smith Outstanding Journal Article commendation.