This article was originally published in the May 2008 issue (Vol 13, No. 3)
A Moment to Reflect
By Karen Bachmann, UUX Manager
As I write this, elections for the new Usability & User Experience (UUX) officers are wrapping up, making this my final manager column. Clichéd though it may be, I cannot help but reflect over how many changes to this community and the STC have happened during my term as manager. One of the biggest changes was that the Usability SIG rechartered as the Usability & User Experience (UUX) community, a new name that reflected our changing professional realities and needs.
That was no simple paper exercise. Our community, along with every other community that underwent this process, had to evaluate its value to you as its members and to all STC members. The role of virtual communities substantially changed within the Society, taking on more responsibility to deliver value to members and to gain a greater voice and ability to contribute to all STC members.
Building a New Foundation
Taking on that greater role required that virtual communities have access to new resources and services, establish new processes, and collaborate with our fellow communities to share lessons as we all grew into our new responsibilities. The effort has provided UUX the necessary foundation to increase professional development opportunities and resources to members.
Usability in the Mainstream of Technical Communication
Another change over these years is that usability is more readily considered both a tool of technical communicators and also a career path. The offerings to learn about usability and user experience design have moved from being periodic articles and isolated conference sessions to being covered in special issues of our Society publications, highlighted in a dedicated track at the conference, and taught, across various subtopics, regularly in STC webinars.
We technical communicators have long considered the role of user advocate to be essential to our work, and increased awareness of user-centered design (UCD) methods and processes have provided greater tools to take this role. Many of us now apply UCD to deliver more effective and satisfying documentation.
Some of us have made UCD a main focus of our careers, and apply new skills built on communication expertise to deliverables other than documentation. Consequently, when employers advertise for usability specialist jobs, technical communication is now being recognized as one of the many related professions that contribute to the diverse field of usability.
UUX as a Bridge Between Professional Communities
UUX draws attention to the importance of technical communication's contribution both to the field of usability and to deliver a successful user experience. Our website and all of the great content it delivers-from our bookshelf and newsletter to templates and discussions of usability in our Topics section-serves as a well-regarded resource to the larger usability profession.
UUX also provides those of us interested in specializing in usability and user experience design a career path into the usability profession and an established connection with our sister professional organizations. For those of us who no longer primarily create documentation, UUX remains a vital resource with its focus on documentation usability and best practices for ensuring that documentation delivers a consistent, quality user experience with all the other deliverables. This focus on creating usable documentation is essential, and a role within the usability profession as well as within STC that I'm very proud that UUX continues to serve.
Exciting Times Ahead
It's a great time to be involved in usability and user experience design and to increase your own knowledge and skills. US News named Usability/User Experience Professional as one of the best careers for 2008. (http://www.usnews.com/features/business/best-careers/best-careers-2008.html). As new technologies emerge, especially online, they bring not only the promise for more content and interaction, but also more and risk of making users' lives more complicated and overwhelming.
Whether you approach projects as a technical communicator who understands usability or as a usability specialist who understands how to communicate well, you can deliver more value to users and your employers by increasingly successful products and services. In turn, your own value and career can benefit.
Of course, you know this. That's why you participate in this community. It's one of the reasons that UUX continues to be one of the largest communities within STC. UUX now has greater resources to deliver even more value to you. The new officers have some exciting plans for delivering even more professional development opportunities. I'm happy to be able to transfer community leadership to such capable new leaders at a time when UUX is ready to grow as a professional development resource and when usability and user experience are being recognized as true differentiators for professionals and for companies.
I am honored, if not a little exhausted, to have been manager during a period of such meaningful changes to the profession and the Society. I remain enthusiastic about the future of this community and the significant value it offers to us as members.
Thank you for the chance to serve.
|All articles are property of the author or publication providing reprint permission. Reprinting this content in part or in whole requires permission from the source.|