Lately, I’ve been working on some documentation for a broad set of users. I’m challenged to write snippets of content that they might actually read and find useful.
As I re-read Don’t Make Me Think, the title itself being the most important rule, I wonder if I’ve held to the standards of making text useful. He reminds us to fore go using marketing lingo and use common terms that won’t make the user ponder. We’re task-oriented. We look for the trigger words that will help us complete the task. Too often, marketing folks (like myself) want to invent words to be clever. All we do is frustrate task completion.
Krug says, “Faced with any sort of technology, very few people take the time to read instructions. Instead, we forge ahead and muddle through…” I did a little usability test this week and found that to be exactly true. The user will blow by text that explains the very thing they need to know in an effort to find something intuitive he or she will automagically understand.
A few other nuggets to remember:
It’s not the number of clicks that count, but the amount of effort and thought required I’ve put in to make a choice.
“Happy talk must die.” Users don’t have time for useless words.
Be conventional. It’s ok, and it will bring a level of comfort and familiarity to your users.
What makes for good design is a lot like what makes for good writing– what is effective in a particular context for an audience, achieving a specific purpose.
Watch ordinary users– usability testing is critical.
“‘I don’t like the colors.’– what you can count on at least one user saying in every usability test.”