What is Information Experience?
Imagine you’re driving in your brand new Acura TL. It’s your first car, and you love how it drives. An icon appears on the dash with a bright orange exclamation point.
You’re confused, worried, panicked. Is something overheated? Is the engine going to die? Should I pull over? Or should I ignore it and hope for the best?
Now, if you had an icon like this one, wouldn’t your mind be a bit more at ease? A minor addition of text stating that the car requires service at 10,000 miles (or is it kilometers?) adds to the clarity and ensures that the message is important but not urgent.
Or maybe display a message reminding you to take your car in for service soon (assuming you can understand English, that is).
All software contains information to enable users to accomplish something. The information can be found in the user interface as tooltips, icons, help, on-screen messages and other elements. Users rely on this information to accomplish a particular task quickly and easily.
Information Developers like me play a crucial role in the collaboration between design teams and development who strive to provide users with an exceptional and intuitive information experience in the user interface.
The goal is to design the intuitive and clear user interface, so that the need for massive amounts of documentation is eliminated (although sometimes additional content is needed). We use our professional experience to apply known principles of how users read and consume information. This helps to simplify user tasks, increase productivity, and reduce frustration among users.
Meet Linda Lior, Information Design Guru
Our Palo Alto team recently had the opportunity to meet with Information Design Consultant, Linda. Linda was kind enough to share her experiences as an information designer. She described how we can apply the principles of information design at SAP.
Linda has worked in software development for 20+ years, focusing primarily on information design and usability. She was a user experience researcher and technical writer at Microsoft for 10 years, and currently works as a freelance information design consultant.
Linda is the author of Writing for Interaction: Crafting the Information Experience for Web and Software Apps.
Information Developers are often the first line of quality assurance in many products. “By the time we finish a project, we quite often know the most about the product”, according to Linda. “We understand the entire process a user will experience and can provide users with the appropriate information, so they can successfully complete their tasks”.
Writing for Interaction
The information experience includes the text in the user interface, the interactions, and the visual design. Therefore, it is crucial for information developers and designers to work together to design an effective and engaging experience.
Here are a few rules to keep in mind when creating an enjoyable and effective user experience.
- Know your users—determine the type and amount of information users need, depending on their role and what they need to get done (personas).
- Integrate information—develop and implement information (embedded assistance) into the application as part of the feature, instead of adding it on after the fact.
- Create content guidelines—set guidelines for tone, language, terminology, and typography to ensure the information experience is consistent across the application. This improves the user’s ability to scan, read, and understand how to interact with the app.
- Create task-based content—focus on providing the right content for an entire workflow and for each single task. Break multi-part procedures into shorter, manageable individual topics so that users don’t get lost in a sea of steps. Three ten-step tasks are easier to follow than a single thirty-step task.
A Few Challenges
One of the main challenges that we face when working on projects, is helping product teams understand the importance of bringing in an information designer from the start. This can help the team craft the application’s UI as a unified source of information. This is much easier to achieve at the beginning of a project, rather than trying to fix something that is nearing final development.
Another challenge information designers face is that developers are not always native English speakers, so the text is sometimes unclear. With an information designer responsible for the UI labels, the text that appears in the product’s UI is clearly defined and consistent, ensuring that users will have a more successful experience.
Linda emphasizes, “You need to gain the confidence from the developers in what you do. Once you’ve proven yourself, it’s easier to do.”
Sophia is a Senior Information Developer at SAP who works closely with Development and User Experience professionals to create information experiences for SAP software users that ensure usability, simplicity, and clarity. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors with her family, and her dog, Poseidon. Her creative side comes out with photography and crafts.