What is user experience and why does it matter to technical writers?

With today’s ease of sharing, absolutely anyone can quickly broadcast their positive or negative experience with a product, business, or service. This experience, called user experience (or UX), is key to business’s reputation and continuity.

While there are many fantastic definitions of user experience, I’ll try to sum them all up and say it’s the emotional impact of an interaction.

Think about your last positive experience with a product or at a store. What emotions come to mind? Did you want to tell others how great it was? Now think about your last negative experience with a product or a store. Did you feel frustration, anger, or worse? Did you write a scathing review on Yelp? Those two examples are at the very core of user experience and it’s powerful.

The cornerstone to user experience is a soft skill: empathy. That is, you can understand the feelings of others. For some, this is a natural skill. For others, it just doesn’t make sense.

Some companies actually hire UX writers, not only because they know how important user experience is but also want to foster a culture of positive customer experiences.

Yet, if you have empathy and are a technical writer, you play an integral role in defining the overall user experience. That is, you have a full understanding of end user’s needs, such as:

  • What end-users want
  • What end-users can do
  • What end-users can’t do

Especially important to Help system authors, what emotional state the end-user might be in when turning to your words. These are questions to ask when planning your next set of documentation. When you have those answers, your documentation will shine!

As a technical writer with empathy, you can really add value to an organization. Some companies value it more than others, but with user experience knowledge, you’ll hold the competitive edge.

 

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