Write The Docs EU — Christine Burwinkle — Pairing with designers to create a seamless user experience

I’m at Write The Docs EU today in Budapest and will post semi–unpolished notes from sessions throughout the day after each talk finishes.

Christine is a tech writer from Atlassian, who is best known for Jira and Confluence.

  • Went from five to thirty designers in the last two years.
  • Goal: Help casual users, too!
  • Ten tech writers, 400 developers.

Techniques borrowed from designers are used for their writing.

Three main design principles (printed and framed, hanging on their office wall):

  1. Be familiar
  2. Grow with me (help users become power users)
  3. Give me clarity

Aside: Android UX principle is her personal favorite.

Audience/Personas — they printed them everywhere.

Designers took a year–long project:

  1. What role is a feature targeting.
  2. What is assumed skills/background
  3. How do

Leverage data from designers to help them craft better documentation.

Measure success by piggybacking:

  • Usability testing to determine if they need documentation, and publishing FAQs (if necessary).
  • Analytics results.

Diving into borrowing design techniques

Workshopping example: Empathy maps (to bring focus to the user)

  • Better understand their feelings “before and after” a situation
  • Work backwards from the “after” situation to create an ideal state, and empower users.

They’re huge fans of Post–Its:

  • Easy to move ideas around.
  • Excellent for separate collaboration and brainstorming.
  • Inexpensive, mobile, and fun!

Workshopping example: Sparring sessions

  • Critique session to bring group thinking into design and planning.
  • Confirms if goals are met with the prototype.

Sparring with TWs (technical writers)

Before the session, TW sends:

  • Draft to discuss
  • List of goals in the document

Superb sparring session tips

  • Timebox!
  • If your team is given to negativity, try positives–only for five minutes. Fantastic idea!
  • Make sure everyone is heard. Use a checklist, or give everyone one minute to list feedback.
  • Leave with at least three action items.

Workshopping example: 6–ups

  • Divide a sheet into six parts.
  • Focuses on ideal solutions.
  • Gets out of thinking in words. (Draw!)
  • Great method to build on ideas from colleagues.

Workshopping example: User stories

  • How does a user get to a feature? Is it controlled? From many different areas with different goals?
  • What does a user do before? What do they (usually) do next?
  • If they fall out of line in the process, documentation is needed for additional context.
  • Lo–Fi: Use colored stickers to “vote”, then build the document plan based on problem areas.
  • Australian slang: “Doco” is short for documentation. 🙂

Finding the right projects — look for:

  • A team that finds value in design and tech writing.
  • A designer who sees value in the docs
  • A new project that’s running lean and has some momentum.
  • Look for projects that are data–driven.

Explore and expand

  • Read design principles and techniques.
  • Follow UX blogs.
  • Write a documentation experience plan.

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. He's also a cat whisperer. Sometimes…a photographer, and card magician.

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