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Course Preview: UX Writing for Tech Writers

It’s time technical audiences got some UX writing love.

Are you a technical writer looking for ways to level up your work? Are you interested in UX writing?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re in the right place. Welcome. Our new course guides tech writers like you to the UX tools and strategies you need to get ahead of the curve, flex new skills, and become a user-centered technical writer.

“Discover the incredible amount of impact you have, how to bring UX principles into documentation, the basics of UX writing,  as well as a ton of other tools, tricks, and best practices for writing human-centered technical content.”

— Dave Connis, Sr. Documentation & UX Writer, Course Author

 


Quick Links

Frequently Asked Questions

Lesson 1: Technical & UX writing compared

Lesson 2: How good UX affects documentation

 


Frequently asked questions about the course

How long is the course? Is it self-paced? 

Time estimates fall around 20-40 hours of study and practice work for this course depending on your speed. There are 5 units in the course. Each unit is broken down into a series of 3-6 lessons with practice quizzes and reviews along the way. To be certified, you must receive a passing score on the final project and final exam.

This course is designed to fit around your schedule; lessons are available on-demand at any time. There is no live instruction, so you’re free to study at your own pace.

Who is the course for? What are the prerequisites? 

This course is made with technical writers in mind. If you’re a tech writer who’s interested in applying UX best practices to your work, this course is for you. If you’re a tech writer who is interested in moving into UX writing full-time, consider UX Writing Fundamentals.

Prerequisites:

  • A computer with the latest version of Chrome
  • A broadband internet connection
  • Fluent English comprehension and writing proficiency
  • Working technical writing knowledge
  • A love for writing, tech, and good communication with humans

How does this course differ from UX Writing Fundamentals?

The UX Writing Fundamentals course is designed for writers who are new to working as part of a design team. Perfect for junior writers looking to make a switch, or writers transitioning from adjacent roles who want to take on UX writing full time.

UX Writing for Technical Writers takes your existing technical writing knowledge and builds on it. You’ll learn to apply UX writing best practices to your work as a tech writer plus how to write for UI components. Designed for writers who want to be competent in both disciplines.

Is there a professional certification upon course completion?

Yes! If you successfully complete the final project and exam, you’ll walk away with a certificate to showcase your new skills.

Why should I study with UX Content Collective? 

Unlike other courses out there, our courses are developed by expert UX writers and managers from companies like Google, Intuit, MYOB, Charter Communications, Amazon, and more. Studying with the UX Writers Collective will set you up to succeed at similar tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Spotify, Shopify, and Netflix.

Already work in tech, but need to hone some world-class writing skills? Are you ready for a fun, creative, and lucrative job?

Come study with us! Our courses provide:

  • A curriculum designed by professional UX writers from the world’s leading companies
  • A solid, career-building foundation in user experience and design writing
  • A Facebook group and a Slack Mentor group exclusively for students
  • Practical, hands-on experience with the opportunity to finish a portfolio-ready project
  • Personalized feedback from instructors on practice work and your final project
  • More than just UX writing skills: the critical knowledge you need to succeed in a UX design team

 

Lesson 1: Technical and UX writing compared

Let’s acknowledge that there’s a growing overlap between technical writing and user experience (UX) writing. Technical writers are expected to understand what it means to be user-centered, efficient, clear, and focused on task completion. Many companies already consider their tech writers to be UX writers, and UX writers often write for technical audiences. There’s a spectrum between the two writing roles, not a hard line.

The goal of this course is to provide tech writers with UX and user-centered tools and frameworks to help them design and advocate for more user-focused experiences.

After completing the course as a technical writer, you’ll know how to:

  • Help your users achieve goals and complete tasks faster and more simply by applying principles from UX writing
  • Think of your documentation as a user-focused product
  • Understand how to write for interfaces
  • Learn how to bring meaningful design methods to your doc design and development

Let’s start with a rough comparison of each role. Differentiating between the two will help us articulate how to move the roles closer together.

What’s the same

At the most basic level, both types of writing help people to get stuff done using software or computers. Both types of writers must understand:

  • Users’ goals
  • Users’ specific characteristics, micro-culture, language, and common terminology
  • The app, software, or technical tool the audience is using
  • The mechanics of writing directly, clearly, and succinctly

Both use language-based principles like information hierarchy and architecture, preferred language, content formats, logical learning, and task flows.

What’s different

Because writing for software ranges from very simple apps to highly complex systems, the line between tech writing and UX writing isn’t solid. It’s blurry and evolving, so imagine each sentence below with a “generally” or an “often” in front of it.

  • Technical writers mostly write for highly technical audiences who use complex tools. UX writers often write for consumer apps and sites that are less complex.
  • Tech docs have fewer length constraints. UX writing, especially interface writing, tends to require keeping everything short.
  • Technical documentation often lives outside a product. UX writing most often guides users from inside a product.

The hybrid writer

Because software, apps, websites, and voice experiences continue to evolve beyond these simplified definitions, we’ll leap ahead a bit and introduce a new term: technical UX writer.

This new term will let us refer to “a technical writer who makes extensive use of UX writing principles and approaches” in a much shorter, easier way. No one outside of this course will recognize a whole new field or discipline—it’s just shorthand for us to use together in this course.

 

Lesson 2: How good user experience affects technical documentation

Part of the power of being a technical UX writer comes from understanding and accepting that documentation is more than just step-by-step instructions. Tech docs support products, but the truth is—they often are the product. A technical customer’s most extensive interaction with a company often happens with the documentation.

Imagine there’s a spectrum for documentation: at one end, we have static, traditional docs that provide a lot of information, but don’t take user needs or flows into account. At the other end, we have user-centered docs that align with user needs, goals, and intentions.

This Sun Microsystems screen is a typical example of  documentation that provides info, but isn’t user-centered. It’s a jumble of concept, task, and reference info that the user must parse through to complete a task.

Source: Java ME Platform Software Development Kit (SDK) via Oracle

In the screen capture you can see:

  • Table of contents to the left
  • Content pane that contains some basic HTML formatting
  • Table on the right

In this example, we might say the common standard has been achieved. Done. Move on. Let them go to Stack Overflow if they need more.

A developer might go to the docs, get what they need, and then get out, thinking nothing of the “experience.” That’s not terrible, but it falls short of the goal to support technical users in a deeper, more intentional way that aims to proactively help users.

Consider the following API documentation from Stripe:

Source: Stripe documentation

First, note that both of the example docs shown are for payment APIs. The first doc example is a static image, but the second doc is an animated GIF that guides users through a series of steps that match how they might complete a task.The first experience has no interactivity. The explanation is almost stark. The second is rich and dynamic, giving users more than just the minimum information they need. The Stripe documentation is designed with the user in mind and a focus on user success.

Good UX in documentation has impact and value 

The value to Stripe goes far beyond business outcomes like decreased support calls and churn. They’re also building value like:

  • Developer respect, loyalty, and trust.
    The idea that developers and technical audiences only care about getting the information they need doesn’t stand up under the Stripe docs. If you ask developers what they think are good docs, many will mention Stripe—even if they don’t use the Stripe product. No one is going to mention the first API example from Sun Microsystems. In fact, they probably won’t even remember it after they leave work. When we put care into our docs, it shows. Developer trust impacts the business in concrete ways.
  • Brand awareness.
    Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to buy brand awareness through paid ads, campaigns, content marketing, and so on. Though this sort of awareness has its place, Stripe has built awareness and reputation by simply creating an amazing experience that people (users) want to talk about and, more importantly, that they respect. It’s not enough to simply tell people you have value. It’s much more effective to deliver it with a delightful experience.

The bottom line? Good user experience design adds value to products of any kind—including documentation. In the remainder of the course, we’ll focus on how to bring good UX to your documentation and writing processes.

[END OF COURSE SAMPLE]

 


This blog post is just a very small taste of our course, UX Writing for Technical Writers. If you’re ready to level up your writing, check out the syllabus and sign up!

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