Nick Hall is currently an RFP Technical Writer Intern with Red Hat in Raleigh, NC. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from N.C. State University and his Master’s in English with a concentration in Technical and Professional Communication from East Carolina University. He is a member of STC Carolina, and he’s always interested in chatting about UX, usability, information architecture, content strategy, content management, or just good ol’ reading and writing. He’s also happily married to his wife Holly and a proud father to a French bulldog named Pearl.
I asked Nick, who is a past student of my Graduate Course in UX, about the impacts learning UX design had on his future career as a technical communicator.
GG: How did learning (and/or) practicing UX tools and techniques help you with your future career?
NH: I would say that learning and practicing UX tools and techniques has helped my career a great deal already. I was lucky enough to learn about UX in my very first semester in the TPC program, so basically everything I did while working on my Master’s degree was influenced by my growing understanding of UX. I’d say one of the biggest things that resonated with me early on was the importance of the user, first, second, last, and always. There was something very reassuring about the notion that if you want to improve the user’s experience, you learn what they like, you understand how they use something and how they want to use it. Basically, it’s all about them. That’s something I think about whether I’m working on a webpage or just editing content.
GG: Have you used any of the knowledge you learned in the UX class since taking it? How have you used it?
NH: One of the things that I learned during the UX class that I’ve carried with me and gone back to over and over is the content audit. I think my understanding of the content audit grew during my content strategy work in my final semester, but even since then I’ve used it. It was one of the first things that I turned to when I was tasked with working on an intranet page revamp for the team that I’m with currently. It’s truly an awesome, easy-to-understand tool, and going through an audit can really take you from the “what have I gotten myself into?” phase to the “this is everything that we need to fix… let’s get to work” phase.
GG: Do you feel that the class was useful in learning how to actually do UX? Why or why not?
NH: Absolutely. Much like content strategy, UX is one of those things that you really have to do to learn, and I thought our class was very successful because it was so hands-on. We talked with actual users and collected data, and that data informed our plan.
GG: What were the biggest eye openers you remember from taking the class? Did the class change your perspective on topics like usability, information architecture, and content strategy? If so: how?
NH: I think one of the biggest eye openers for me was that UX was a thing, and more than that, it was a thing that was *new*. I mean, when you hear about UX, it makes perfect sense, and then immediately you think about all the horrible UX out there, your own anecdotal evidence, that time you couldn’t find something on that website or how that button was in a ridiculous place that made no sense. Anyway, the class didn’t really change my perspective on topics like usability, information architecture, and content strategy, because at the time I had no perspective on them. Instead, my perspective on those topics was completely shaped by UX, and I think that’s a good thing. And yes, I’m very much interested in all those topics because of UX.
GG: What do you think the overall value is of experiential or hands-on learning in UX classes to students such as yourself?
NH: I think that hands-on learning is necessary if someone is going to learn UX, and I think that learning UX, even in a basic sense, is necessary if someone wants to be a well-rounded technical communicator. I’ve used my UX knowledge throughout the TPC program, and I use it every single day in my current internship, and that’s not an exaggeration. Understanding UX, I think, connects with a form of high-level, strategic thinking that is valued in the workplace. I know that in my workplace people seem to value my perspective when it comes to information design, and my perspective is very much shaped by my UX background.