Lately I've been studying the role of aesthetics in documentation. My research led me to an article titled "Is beautiful really usable? Toward understanding the relation between usability, aesthetics, and affect in HCI" by Alexandre N. Tuch, Sandra P. Roth, and others (2012, Computers in Human Behavior). You can download a copy of the manuscript … Continue reading Notes on Further Research into Aesthetics and Usability (and What It Means for Technical Writers)
Tag: technical writing
A Voice You Love
Happy Holy Week - hands down my favorite week of the year, culminating in Easter Sunday. Today, of course, is Maundy Thursday. I've been focusing my reading on the gospel of John and two spectacular little books of art: The Art of Lent and The Art of Holy Week and Easter, both by Sister Wendy … Continue reading A Voice You Love
On Writing, ChatGPT, Harry Potter, and Evil Equity Language
What a week. One of the low points was the discovery that Clarkesworld magazine has temporarily halted short story submissions due to an overwhelming influx of fake content generated by AI tools. Clarkesworld is one of the venues where I was planning to submit a work of mine, so needless to say, I'm ticked at … Continue reading On Writing, ChatGPT, Harry Potter, and Evil Equity Language
The Impact of ChatGPT on Technical Writing
Update 03/31/2023: On his popular tech writing blog I'd Rather Be Writing, Tom Johnson has a more thorough treatment of this subject than my short comments below. I remain less optimistic than he does about AI language generators, but his concrete examples of how writers could work with ChatGPT rather than eschew it are helpful. … Continue reading The Impact of ChatGPT on Technical Writing
Whether AI Will Replace Writing
"Will Artificial Intelligence Kill College Writing?" asks a professor in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Micah Mattix gives what I think is a thoughtful response: "This is one of the problems with teaching writing exclusively as a tool. Most tools are replaceable. But I don’t think writing—real writing—is in any danger of being replaced by … Continue reading Whether AI Will Replace Writing
From chapter 48 of Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson: "Fisheye has taken what appears to be an instruction manual from the heavy black suitcase. It is a miniature three-ring binder with pages of laser-printed text. The binder is just a cheap unmarked one bought from a stationery store. In these respects, it is perfectly familiar to … Continue reading Job Security
Do Attractive Documents Work Better?
Design expert Donald Norman has written that when people are anxious, they narrow their thought processes. Conversely when people are happy, they become more creative and imaginative at solving problems. If this is true, it means that one of the best things a technical writer can do is create beautiful content that moves readers to a happier, more adaptive emotional state. Or so I contend.
What If Technical Writers Thought of Themselves As Artists?
Technical writers usually think of their job in functional terms: to help end users know or do something. Creating beautiful content is typically not seen as a core part of the equation. But what if technical writers thought of themselves as artists whose aim is to create a thing of beauty? Isn't that, in the end, what makes for a good user experience?
Best Practices for Content Reuse
For technical writers, content reuse it a great idea---but way more difficult in practice than it sounds. Here are some of my practical suggestions on how to do it in a sustainable way, based on my years of experience implementing it with tools like Confluence and Madcap Flare.
Resources on How Technical Writers Can Support Sales
I just published an article on how documentation can enable sales. Here's an annotated list of the resources I used in my research.