Saturday, July 20, 2024

Why Usability Is So Important In Technical Documentation

As a technical writer, I often find documentation that isn’t much useful, usable, or inclusive. This is true even for reputed companies like Google.

Recently, I wanted to purchase a premium account for my Fitbit app. But I wasn’t able to use Google pay for some reason. I read their instructions carefully and they redirect me to Fitbit and Fitbit instructions redirected me to Google. And I am wondering – aren’t they the same company? Didn’t Google buy Fitbit?

The instruction guide left me feeling I am dumb or stupid and that I can’t comprehend simple instructions. But isn’t the purpose of a good document to make your life easier?

I left without buying that subscription. It was a loss for the company too.

This is where usability comes into play. Here’s something very important to think about when it comes to usability.

Cognitive Load

To put it simply: the more tasks we give users, the slower they are able to finish a task and the more confused they will become.

Usability consultant Steve Krug, in his book, Don’t Make Me Think!, illustrates this theory by using the idea of “goodwill” and gain and loss.

“Keep things quick and easy to follow and your visitors will get what they want faster.”

“Smartly laid-out designs are among the easiest to use and receive the most positive feedback. Using your website should be effortless.”

To reduce cognitive overload, something very useful to remember is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

If we can convert this need to the need of the users, then we get something like this:

via: WebFX

That translates to the following:

via: WebFX

To be continued…

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