Working as an Information Developer in Tokyo
In the summer vacation of 2015, I had just completed my first semester of study in the Technical Communication program at North Carolina State University. I was fortunate to receive an internship invitation from Sony headquarters in Tokyo and started a two-month internship in Sony’s English documentation department.
My first task was to review the English manuals of Bravia HD 4K TV and to write some of the FAQ content of this product. I still remember when meeting with the television engineers for the first time, the engineers said to me passionately: “Yingying-San, our department will always stand behind you!” WOW!
When proofreading the manuals, I found that the two most severe problematic areas were in the content and the structure. Firstly, the Five manuals were written by different teams in Japan and Malaysia and were on various quality levels. The outsourced documents had many problems in punctuation, grammar, expressions, and styles. Secondly, the user experience of these documents needed to be proved. For example, the five manuals brought too many choices for users, making it hard for users to decide which manual to use. The Online Help interface was complicated, and it was difficult for users to quickly locate information.
Guidance and solutions offered:
For the first question, my mentor advised me to use Sony’s Style Guide to proofread the documents. I learned that Style Guide is like a company’s brand maintenance manual. From the tones and voices of the texts, to the use of punctuations, icons, fonts, and colors, the Style Guide ensures that the style of the company’s various documents and products is consistent. A clear style guide not only gives users a deeper impression of the company brand, but also helps the user to find familiarity in different documents and interfaces. Users can easily find desired information in familiar locations and won’t be attracted or interfered by any new style element.
After improving the content, the next step was to fix the structural problem. For the second question, I used some methods of usability design to identify and solve problems. Firstly, I created a user persona based on user research. Then I wrote user stories about how this persona interacted with the documents in different scenarios to find the pain points in using the documents.
After doing user research through interviewing TV engineers and analyzing the frequent keywords and hot posts in the Sony TV user forum, I created the persona David. David is a 45-year old male, a professor of literature, and a big fan of football games. His needs for the product included watching games and TV shows, playing electronic games with family, listening to music while having breakfast, etc.
The next step was to write user stories. But don’t be misled by the word “story”. After all, it’s not creative writing. User storied need more than imagination. They are based more on the data of real user behaviors. Besides of the user data I collected from the previous user research, I also tried each step from unpacking, assembling TVs, connecting TV to the Internet, using basic functions like changing channels, to downloading films, playing games, and using the built-in manual. I tried to figure out what problems David may meet during the process, and he may respond. My precious resource was frequently communicating with engineers and senior technical writers. They gave me a lot of new insights on aspects I had never considered.
Utilizing Usability in the right context:
In short, the aim of the usability design is to provide the users the right content in the right scenario at the right time. For example, when designing the TV built-in manual, technical writer should consider that users can only use the remote control to search (type in texts) and jump (press buttons) within the built-in manual. Therefore, the information architecture should be shallow, and keywords should be automatically supplemented with relevant vocabulary when user is typing. The user manual on the web page should be easily found on the online product introduction page, rather than providing a URL on the in-box paper document for users.
At the time, Sony’s Vice President Masashi Imamura happened to be visiting the documentation department. I was given the chance to report my finding to Imamura-san. Soon we saw a new revision of the Sony Global Support website, and the homepage obviously used my design.
Yingying Tang is a Technical Writer at RTI International. During the past two years, she has worked as a technical writer with three large international companies, Sony, Hikvision and RTI International, and has gained valuable working experiences in technical writing, UX design, content strategy, SEO and accessibility design.
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