Have you ever read a piece of writing and it was just one long block paragraph that was a page long? You get bored easily, eyes soften, and you end up reading the same line over and over again. Yeah, it’s not too visually stimulating is it? I didn’t think so.
Let me introduce to you to User-Centered Design, or as I like to call it, UCD.
Some everyday examples of user-centered design are iPhones for instance. They are organized so we can access everything with ease. The objective is to simplify and streamline everything. Additionally, it looks pretty and is organized nicely for us. Streamline is the word that comes to mind especially when it comes to technology.
In a nutshell, Purdue Owl tells us how to design documents for our users (of course). Essentially, you want the document to be easy to read and easy to find information.
Everyone likes HATS:
Purdue Owl teaches a great technique about document design with the acronym HATS.
- H: Headings need to make information easier to find and go back to. They also indicate the importance of what’s to follow, for example a larger heading might umbrella several subheadings of the same subject.
- A: Access illustrates how users can view information. Visual aids such as charts or images may be useful to easily access information. It’s important for users to be able to navigate and access information easily.
- T: Typography should reflect the scenario you are writing in. You don’t want to use cursive or bubble letters for your resume or cover letter. Additionally, you don’t want to use multiple fonts in one document, it will appear messy and overwhelming.
- S: Space is used to break up long blocks of text. Multiple paragraphs with space in between allows us to easily see the organization of the document.
Let’s get a little more specific and dive into sentence structure. Both UsabilityNet and Purdue Owl highlight the importance of simplifying your sentences. Being a millennial, we might like to over complicate things or overthink, but it’s not necessary for everything. Making sentances simple and easy to read is better than showing off with your vocabulary. Purdue also shares two specific examples of sentence structure that should be included in documents.
- Bottom Line Up Front: Put the punchline or point of the sentence in the beginning instead of the end. This prevents confusion and creates more of an impact when the point is clear in the beginning of a sentence.
- Subject to Verb: Similar to the BLUF method above, authors should apply the subject in the beginning of the sentence and not make the reader wait until the end.
It’s Not Over When it’s Over:
It might seem like when you’re done with a document, you’re done forever. However, this is not the case and there are a few things to be done after. Below are a few things to keep in mind after a document is “done” compiled with help from UsabilityNet and HOW.
- Consistency: Keep your design consistent especially throughout all of your documents. This will allow your personal brand to shine through and users to associate certain design elements with you.
- Evaluate and Update: Go back and check your documents for errors and constantly be sure to update information. Keeping things relevant in your document will keep you relevant and your documents will be revisited, given the prevalence of online documents.
- Feedback: Get feedback from peers and mentors as often you can. This will allow you to grow and get viewpoints you wouldn’t otherwise get. Something that’s visually pleasing to you might not be for others.
How does this affect me and my future career?
In this day and age, so many things are online, from our Linkedin profiles to our own personal websites, even our resumes may be digital. Focusing on the design and flow of documents are going to give us an advantage on the competition. User centered design should be in your mind constantly.