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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.