Digging in the Right Place: Rhetoric & User Experience

2013 Computers & Writing Panel | Liza Potts (MSU), Mike McLeod (MSU), & Dave Jones (The Nerdery)


  1. The emerging field of User Experience (UX) promises many new opportunities for technical communicators. It incorporates theory and methods from rhetoric, cognitive psychology, graphic design, human-computer interaction, and user-centered design to create a new field that places users at the center of product development from the beginning stages of design and all the way through the lifespan of a product. 
    Our panel introduces attendees to the theories, methods, and tools of User Experience Architecture. We will describe the field, roles technical communicators play in the workplace, and introduce the genres and tools utilized by practitioners. We make the case that writing programs need to incorporate these methodologies into their curricula to prepare students for opportunities in UX careers. We also make the case that learning UX methods should proceed any mandate to learn to code - that learning to code without a focus on users and design ignores not only effective design principles but also the basic components of rhetoric as a craft.
  2. UX Overview
  3. Some basics on titles, roles, and responsibilities. Note that these change (constantly) depending on who is doing the hiring. By reading job ads, you can figure out what they are looking for (usually).
  4. Excellent visual on UX job types, skillsets, toolsets, locations, demand, and salaries
  5. Good podcast on UX and "users"
  6. Awesome Prezi (done right!) from IA expert Peter Morville, defining Information Architecture
  7. Notes for beginners from The Nerdery, a software development consultancy in Minnesota 
  8. Tech Comm in a Multidisciplinary UX Team
  9. What Writers Do: User Experience Design, “Code”, and Professional Writing

    An example from Mike's Course Syllabus for Advanced Web Authoring:

    This course provides an opportunity for students to expand their conceptions of design and composition for the web. Students will be challenged to situate design methodologies and programming languages as rhetorical practices and they will use both to create dynamic, interactive websites. Course topics will include web usability, information architecture, information design, interface design, interaction design, user experience, and content management. Languages, methods, and technologies used to implement these topics include HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL, and a variety of web-based services. 

    Most importantly, students will learn to be lifelong technology learners. Technologies grow and evolve and students will need to be able to adapt to these new technologies in order to stay relevant and productive as web authors and designers. 

  10. Mike's course content in dropbox
  11. Michigan State University is Launching a new BA in Experience Architecture this Fall (led by Liza Potts, Bill Hart-Davidson, and Rebecca Tegtmeyer)
  12. Tools