Vancouver Island Tech Comm Café: May 1 recap; next meeting online Sept. 13

Vancouver Island Tech Comm Café: May 1 recap; next meeting online Sept. 13

The May 1 Vancouver Island Tech Comm Café was held at Frankie’s Modern Diner, where writers enjoyed everything from milk shakes to mimosas and burgers to pasta. We also had the pleasure of chatting with two guest speakers: Michele Macklin, Senior Interaction Designer at Number 41 Media, and Andrew Macklin, Senior Software Developer at Reliable Controls.

Michele and Andrew shared their knowledge of user experience (UX) testing and user interface (UI) design. Michele defined UX as a person’s perception and responses that result from using a product, and mentioned that UX is best understood by usability testing. As an example, UX testing would determine how much scrolling is appropriate, and the number of tabs to navigate to a feature. Michelle then contrasted UX with UI, which is the graphic design, content layout, and behaviour of a user interface, such as help buttons and error messages.

UX/UI Best Practices

The discussion then went on to highlight a few best practices for UX/UI design, such as:

  • Placing the login button on the top right because most people are right-handed.
  • Using company stakeholders as UI testers.
  • Carrying out remote testing by phone, and in-person testing so you can observe users’ faces and see their expressions.
  • Having users describe how to complete a task, and then observing them performing the task.

Michele mentioned that many UI testers have a tendency to blame themselves when confused by an interface cue: “Oh, it must just be me who can’t find this button.” However, it is more likely that the confusion results from a non-intuitive UI design.

Top UX/UI Considerations for Technical Writing

Other points touched on during the discussion included how UX/UI can inform technical writing by:

  • Putting the needs of the user first.
  • Referring to published usability studies when presenting design decisions.
  • Ensuring documents and online content can be easily scanned.
  • Organizing content in usable chunks with a clear hierarchy.

At the end of the evening, we discussed the future of user interfaces, citing examples of chat boxes, artificial intelligence, and voice control interfaces such as Apple’s Siri. We agreed that these are all exciting new areas for both technical communicators and UI/UX designers.

Our next Vancouver and Vancouver Island Tech Comm Cafés will be combined into one meeting and will take place online on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. Brew yourself a beverage and dial in from the comfort of your favourite chair. RSVP to admin (at) for login details.


The TCC provides networking opportunities, job leads, answers to work-related dilemmas, and a burst of professional energy to keep you motivated. We discuss technical writing tools and techniques, career planning, portfolios, and anything else related to working as a technical communicator.

We welcome anyone who’s interested in technical communication — contractor, in-house, student, long-time tech writer, STC member, non-member, career-changer, or recruiter. We hope to see you at the next meeting!


Serena Beck has been a technical writer for 13 years and currently writes about blood and plasma hardware and software. She is the president of the STC Canada West Coast chapter.