Anyone working in the software industry will know the term “usability” and have a reasonable idea of what it entails. As a technical writer, a user advocate within the development team, there is typically an overlap between how we think, and how usability specialists think.
For starters, anyone who is delivering information should know who their audience is and why they require the information. With a good understanding of your audience, you will know what information they require because you will understand how they use your product.
It seems obvious yet it’s something that many people struggle with, and I wonder if it is partly because, rightly, usability is a distinct field which has many experts and practitioners.
However, many software companies do not have resource dedicated to usability as, and I don’t get to say this often, it’s often seen as less of a priority than technical writing.
Why does any of this matter to you as a technical writer? Because it’s another string to your bow, another item to add to your CV, and something else that will convince your boss that it’s worthwhile keeping you in the team.
And hey, it’s interesting stuff, a little task analysis of the requirements, some creative thinking, and an even better understanding of the product and then, if you are really lucky, you get to talk directly to users of your product.
I’m part of the ad-hoc usability team in my company, and whilst it can be challenging it is part of my job I hugely enjoy and which makes me a better technical writer, and that’s never a bad thing.