The relationship between technical writing and application UI

During a recent work meeting, we were discussing an online Wiki-like internal document that I’d written. There was mention of a line that needed to be included. I mentioned that I’d need to figure out how to word it, and where it should go — pretty typical work when editing any technical document.

For some reason, during that conversation, I started thinking about how locating that — and other pieces within the document — affected its readability. That thought made me think about interfaces — how certain UI/UX pieces on an application can influence how an end user views and uses it.

That’s when it occurred to me: there is a direct correlation between technical writing and UI design.

It should be an obvious idea, but for me, it was a revelation. There isn’t a lot of difference between how a document is laid out and how a user interface is arranged. Many design principles between them are the same. The user’s eye path follows the design. How he or she reads the document or uses the application is affected by how the document is laid out or how the UI is designed.

I’ve written before about how design is important. I’ve also written about documentation issues (time and again). Like everything else, technical writing and UI design is a skill. A good technical document and a good user interface both require planning — as it turns out, the same kind of planning — to execute properly.