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Podcast -- Transitioning from Technical Writing into Usability

by Tom Johnson on Apr 2, 2008
categories: podcasts wordpress

Listen here:

In this podcast, I talk with Theresa Putkey, a usability consultant in Vancouver, about how she transitioned from technical writing into usability. This is part II of the previous conversation with Theresa.

Learn more about Theresa by reading her blog. You can also read Theresa's articles on Boxes and Arrows.

Topics in this Podcast

In this podcast, we talk about the following:

  • How to move into usability
  • Designing user interfaces
  • Contributing towards usability on project teams
  • Compelling reasons to transition from technical writing into usability
  • Whether applications can be so intuitive that they never need manuals
  • Conjectures to the question -- Will technical writers ever be extinct?
  • Making content more findable in search
  • Tagging topics with concept keywords to increase their search rating
  • Harnessing related topics, concept keywords, and synonyms for search results
  • Browsing in the table of contents versus relying on search to find content
  • Making content findable in large projects (such as those with 3,000+ topics)
  • Using card sorts to determine user terms for topic names
  • Using focus groups to gather terminology and function lists from users
  • Usability consultant versus technical writer -- preferences, purposes, and job satisfaction
  • Whether technical writing is only a transitional field
  • Defining different categories within user experience: interaction design, graphic design, programming/web designer and programmer, information architecture (designing information spaces)
  • Creating navigation that people can use to find information
  • Expanding beyond user interface when it comes to usability
  • The Information Architecture Institute (IA Institute)
  • Content Management Professionals
  • IXD, Interaction Designers Group
  • Human Factors Group
  • Vancouver User Experience Group (VanUE)
  • Organizations and professional groups for usability
  • Choosing your career -- technical writing or usability?
  • Teambuilding, including everyone, and communicating regularly
  • Building relationships in your company (the key to success)
  • Collaboration, teambuilding, and communication -- breaking down silos across departments
  • Techniques for bringing people together (the importance of the watercooler)
  • The paradox of making friends and winning people to your side

Note: Ever wonder why I make such an extensive list of topics covered? Audio doesn't have keywords like blog posts, so people who search for them on Google never find the audio unless I saturate the show notes with relevant keywords.

Podcast Sponsors

MadCap Flare is the most versatile XML-based Help authoring tool on the market, with thousands of customers using MadCap products including Microsoft, Google, HP, GE, yahoo and the list goes on. Check out Flare version 3.1 and a host of other new tools at at

Adobe – The Technical Communication Suite software offers a complete solution for authoring, managing, and publishing interactive instructional information from technical documents and books to online help systems, knowledge bases, interactive training, and eLearning content in multiple formats and languages. Learn more here.

Intro music is Velveture by Ocean Alexander

Upcoming Training on WordPress

Are you interested in learning more about self-hosted WordPress blog sites? If so, let me know by sending me an email ([email protected]). I'm planning to offer some training in the upcoming weeks. Training will cover everything from the basics, such as using posts, pages, categories, and tags, to PHP calls and CSS tweaks.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the tech comm, be sure to subscribe to email updates below. You can also learn more about me or contact me. Finally, note that the opinions I express on my blog are my own points of view, not that of my employer.