Introduction to user-centered design (what the heck is this?):
You might ask, what is user-centered design? As a fellow millennial I certainly did. User-centered design is “the process by which useful documents are made for a user through interactive information development” according to Casey DeSmet at Pearson Custom. But if you’re anything like me you’re still saying “so uhh what does that mean?” Putting this definition into language I understood meant research. The definition I found to be most useful is from the European Information Development Conference. User-centered design is essentially a format designed to provide the reader with ease of learning, efficiency, errors minimization, subjective satisfaction, accessibility and memorability.
While this sound like an easy task it can potentially be more difficult that you think. After finding a definition that I understood I immediately thought, I already do this, I don’t need to read about this. But, to my disappointment, after further reading and research I realized there were definitely areas I could improve to make my writing more user-centered. Most of the devices we, as millennials, interact with are incredibly user-friendly. Take the iPhone for example, how much more user-centered can a device get? Every aspect of the iPhone is developed and formatted for the sole purpose of user satisfaction and ease of use, Jethro Heiko.
Now that we have established a definition and explored how this definition plays out in the real world of technology let’s take a closer look at user-centered design in writing, and in particular, business writing.
User-centered design in writing:
The category of user-centered design breaks down into three subcategories, document format, information format and sentence format, Perdue Owl.
1.) Document Format:
Document format is focused around the physical format of words on the page. In order to exercise the ease of earning and efficiency I mentioned before, you should use titles, subtitles, bold type and numbered lists in order to create a document that is memorable and accessible to the reader.
2.) Information Format:
Successful information format structures the information you are trying to communicate in a general to specific format making it easy for the reader to learn what you are trying to communicate.
3.) Sentence Format:
Sentence format, the way I understand it, is simply the use of sentence structure that makes for easy and efficient comprehension by the reader. I find that a quick and dirty check for this can be done by reading the sentence out loud to someone else and seeing if they need any clarification.
User-centered design in Business writing specifically:
Now that we know exactly what user-centered design is and how to apply it to our writing lets move our focus to business writing you are currently doing or may do in the future. Writing with a user-centered design caters to the reader by providing the information in the most convenient and clear format possible. User-centered business writing has a similar purpose but a slightly different application.
When I write to coworkers and other business professionals certain aspects of user-centered design take precedence over others. In business writing memorability and ease of learning are crucial.
While the definition of this aspect remains the same the importance increases. Business professionals tend to be very busy and typically read (skim) thousands of emails a day. Because of this volume element it is crucial that your document leaves a lasting impression that the reader can easily recall.
Ease of learning:
For the same reason why it is important that your document be memorable it is also crucial that your document facilitate easy comprehension of the information presented. If your document is difficult to understand it is likely that it won’t get much consideration or attention.
Moral of the Story:
Business writing becomes far more effective when user-centered design is applied to your current style. As millennials we are stereotyped as bad communicators so why not work together to surprise the world and create documents that are the exact opposite? Good luck fellow millennials and I hope this information was as helpful for you as it was for me!