If the User Can’t Find It…

… it’s not there.

One of the many roles of the technical communicator is to assist developers and designers with making products, websites, and interfaces easy to use. Users who have to search for the functions they need get frustrated, and conclude that the product or website is difficult to use. Consequently, they are less likely to remain loyal to the companies that allow such barriers to productivity. This results in lost revenue and a tarnished reputation.

As user advocates, technical communicators help companies avoid such pitfalls. With a continual focus on how the user will interact with the product, technical communicators alert developers and designers to functionality that may seem straightforward but which creates roadblocks or traps for the end user.

One of the ways we ensure usability (meaning a user can accomplish their goals with the product) is to approach product development from a task perspective. What is the user trying to do with the product? This task orientation engenders a different architecture than a pure function-based approach. It supports user performance rather than offering a broad menu with a range of choices and expecting the user to know exactly where to go and what to do. It often guides users into a workflow that makes them more productive, and helps them work faster. This also increases their satisfaction with the product.

It’s a matter of focusing on how the user will accomplish their tasks with the product instead of what the product can do for the user. This HOW over WHAT mindset is often foreign to systems analysts, developers and designers who are immersed in the features and functions of their creations.

A product can incorporate a host of features, but if the user cannot immediately recognize how a particular feature helps achieve the task at hand, those features are meaningless.

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