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The Contribution of Technical Communicators to the User-Centered Design Process of Personalized Systems

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Purpose: This article discusses how personalization will affect technical communication practitioners' everyday work, and indicates to researchers which knowledge gaps scientific research needs to fill.

Method: After a description of how personalization exactly works, we demonstrate that the technique is very similar to the approach to personalization as applied in ancient rhetoric. Next, we describe how the history of the concept "the audience," and how it has been analyzed and approached, has led to the tactic of electronically tailoring communication to individuals. We propose the User-Centered Design approach as an approach that can help the designer get to know the individual user, thereby increasing the fit between personalized systems and users' needs, wishes, and contexts.

Results: We discuss how the User-Centered Design approach needs to be adjusted to cope with the demands personalization places on the approach. Furthermore, we consider the technical communicator's role in this design process.

Conclusion: Technical communicators need to devise and lead user studies that inform and evaluate each step of the personalization process. Researchers need to focus their efforts on studies that aid the design of personalized systems, like discerning in which situations personalization is of added value or not, and identifying the factors that influence the acceptance of personalization.
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Keywords: AUDIENCE ANALYSIS; PERSONALIZATION; USABILITY; USER MODELING; USER-CENTERED DESIGN

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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