For those of you that are return readers (thanks for coming back!) it’s no secret to you that I’m not the greatest technical writer in the world. I have no formal writing or English background, and, I’m afraid, it shows. That doesn’t mean I think I’m a horrible writer, but it does mean that I think I could do a lot better.
I’ve been reflecting on writing skills and the importance that they have for people in our community. As an independent consultant, I’m seeing more and more the need to improve my writing ability in order to evolve. Here are some reasons why. 1. I use this blog to share my ideas and in turn promote myself as a professional user experience designer. This means that the people that are looking to pay me money to help their business are coming here and I better be showing myself in the best light. 2. Other sites such as New York Entrepreneur Week and Vator.tv have asked me to start contributing to their posts. This means that other audiences outside of our tribe (thanks Whitney Hess for the terminology!) are starting to read my thoughts on user experience. These are people that have little idea what UX is so I better be crystal clear in getting my ideas across. 3. As I try to break into the space of writing longer articles and eventually presentations, I need to learn to be more concise and clear in order to better reach my audiences.
Ok you’re getting the point. Being a better writer is becoming essential to my career as an independent. But what I didn’t realize, is that it should be a priority in all of our careers. Todd Toler, Director of User Experience at John Wiley & Sons, gave me great insight into why. (As an aside, Todd wrote a fantastic post regarding Anti-pattern: Periphrasis on his site Solid State UX that I highly recommend. In it, he focuses on storytelling and the art of editing through our work.) Basically Todd pointed out that the same skills that one uses to create clear, concise writing are the same used to create clear, concise designs. Think about it, if we can’t use words to get our meaning across clearly, then how are we communicating our designs clearly to our stakeholders and users? Yes, I realize that designs are not all just words, but designs do include words and, in fact, rely on them in order to function properly (labels, micro-copy, etc). More importantly you need words, whether written or spoken, in order to communicate the rational and functionality in your designs/wireframes clearly to your colleagues. Without doing so, your designs may never get budgeted, developed or prioritized in a work queue… in short they would never see the light of day!
Thus, one can see the advantage that being a better writer has in our profession. It allows us to get our ideas out of our head and into others. I for one am going to make it a priority to improve my writing skills and I’m confident that as I do so I will see more success both as a consultant but more importantly in communicating the meaning that lies in my work. I’d love to hear thoughts on how to start my better writer journey!