Improve your Writing by Becoming User-Centered

We have all received an email or text, read it and thought, wait….what did I just read? We have also all started to read the first sentence of something, lost interest and immediately proceed to something else. Just as we have done this to someone else’s work, you can be sure that this exact same thing has happened to something we have written. When you are just talking to your friends this can be slightly annoying, but it won’t really effect you too much. However, once in the workplace, not properly connecting with your audience can cause some serious consequences that can even result in the loss of your job. Now this may seem a little scary, but don’t worry! By understanding user-centered design or UCD, you will be able to become a master at communicating and be able to impress your coworkers along the way. UCD can be used when writing major reports or even when you’re sending everyday email communications. It spans all levels of business, so sit back, grab your thinking cap and get ready to learn all about UCD.

What is UCD

UCD is a way to design your writing which focuses on the needs and abilities of your audience. When applying it to your writing, it can be applied to all levels, including document design, information design and sentence design. I’ll now dive in to each of these aspects in more detail.

  1. Document Design: Above all else, user-centered documents should make it easy for your audience to find what they are looking for. This can be achieved by including headers that are both informational and easy to read. I highly recommend making use of both bold and underlined type faces. This brings attention to your headings and makes it easy for a user to navigate your writing. Another important thing is to incorporate images into your work. If you are just replying to a quick email then images are not necessary, but when you are creating a presentation or even an informational document explaining how to perform a task, images are a great way to make your writing seems more approachable. Images will also help your reader better understand what you’re trying to convey, as visual content is processed faster than words by the human brain. Check out eleven other reasons to integrate images at Hubspot.com. 
  2. Information Design: After you make sure your audience can easily navigate your document, you want to focus on making it easy to understand. A good first step is to organize your document so it goes from general to specific. Start by laying out the main points and then use the rest of your writing to go in to specific details. Also, your topic sentences are extremely important, especially if you are providing your team or manager with a status update on a project. Topic sentences can be the sentences that determine if your audience will actually spend the time reading your whole document. When people have a lot on their plate, they will resort to skimming the document by checking out the major points mentioned in the topic sentences and then determining if they should read more. “You must help your audience decide to stick with you by being succinct and clear in your narrative”. More on clearly stating your point can be found at Forbes.com. 7215215170_e0f579ac7c (1)
  3. Sentence Design: This ties in very closely with information design in the aspect that you need to make your writing easy to understand. Each sentence should have the main point come first as the bottom line should always be up front. Also, if you are sending out an email that includes complex information on how to complete a task, you need to explain things in a way that doesn’t dumb things down, but helps your reader comprehend the issue at hand. Try and simplify the tasks you assign because unnecessarily increasing the users’ mental effort is something to be avoided at all costs. You can read more into the key principles of UCD by visiting UsabilityNet.org.

Incorporating UCD causes your audience to be engaged in what you have to say while guaranteeing that they understand the points you want to convey.

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7 thoughts on “Improve your Writing by Becoming User-Centered

  1. Hi Ben! Nice post this week. Out of all the posts I read on user-centered design, yours definitely stood out as one of the shining examples in the way you were able to grasp the audience’s attentions and keep it. What set yours apart was your simple yet informative structure utilizing a numbered list. I like how you broke out the different aspects of design into three distinct parts, each giving helpful nuggets of information. I also appreciated the Dilbert cartoon and how you livened up your post with it. The flow worked well throughout, however my only piece of advice would be to break up your first intro paragraph into two but that is just me. Great post and I look forward to reading more.

    1. Hi Ben! Great post. I really think you make some excellent points about user-centered design. I particularly thought your definition- prior to explaining the steps- was really fantastic. I particularly enjoyed your article from hubspot.com I think the integration of images is extremely important. Some people are audio learners while other are very visual. Appealing to multiple kinds of learners in writing is a great way to keep people interested. I also really enjoyed your paragraph titled “Sentence Design” I think varying sentence structures and paying attention to writing is also key to good writing. If someone is absolutely bored to tears because your sentence structure never varies, or the writing just isn’t clear, your writing simply won’t be as impactful. All in all, awesome post, good job!

  2. Hi Ben,

    I was slightly disappointed to see you changed your title, but the rest of your post more than made up for it. You started off the post well and instantly related to something that has happened to everyone. You then created a smooth transition into the rest of your post that gave your post a natural feel to it. Additionally, I really liked the way you laid out your post. The headings and numbered list kept my focus where it should be and made your post an enjoyable read. Lastly, you offered some very good advice that was backed up and re enforced effectively. I look forward to working with you in the future!

    Sincerely,
    Nate Roadman

  3. Hi Ben. I like how succinct and clear your post is from the get go. You have an intro where you relate with your header then dive right in. I like that you chose to segment each different aspect of your post with bold headings. The structure and flow of this post is really easy to read. You make some solid suggestions and utilize credible sources for business writing like forbes which aid this post overall. I think you could benefit from a visual aid that adds some color and spice to this post. Overall this post kept me engaged, nice work.

  4. I like your title because I can tell what you are going to talk about. You begin nicely with a strong voice that engages the reader right away. I like your intro paragraph a lot because you do a nice job of relating it to your audience and giving them a reason to care. The layout style makes it easier to read (rather than just having one big chunk). The numbers, underlining and bold fold along with the spaces between add a nice visual element. You offer good advice that is relevant and easily applicable.

  5. Hey. i think this article was really effectively written, first of all i really like the comic picture it sort of makes things a little less serious. The way you started out your article really drew my attention. I really like the structure of the points and continuing on with the theme design as you completed the blog post. I think by placing in sentence structure was a crutial thing to bring up because i agree its more than just the design of your page. All in all i think this is a great post.

  6. Hi Ben,
    Good job on your post! I really liked how you started off your introduction paragraph. Your tone is extremely approachable as well as authoritative. You have a friendly tone while still being creditable. Your real like example story is a good choice in order to set an overall tone for the whole blog post. Your information is also very helpful and informative. I liked how you began with describing what UCD actually is, in order to avoid any confusion in the rest of the post. Your three main points of document design, information design and sentence design are very good in order to lay out your post in a very easy to understand and navigate approach.

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