This study examines a document produced by the United States Department of Homeland Security handed out to immigrant parents during the “Family Separation Policy” crisis of 2018. The article examines whether such a document could be ethically tested for usability. Ultimately, the text argues that by the standards of the Belmont Report and the best practices in usability research, such a document would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to test ethically. It argues that, while usability testing is an excellent tool for exploring how users interact with texts that can have life- changing consequences, it may also be used as a tool to perpetuate injustice and marginalize potential users.
by Richard Colby and Rebekah Shultz Colby
Changes in technology, development philosophy, and scale have required game designers to change how they communicate and mediate design decisions. Traditional game design studios used an extensive game design document (GDD), a meta-genre that described most of the game before it was developed. Current studies suggest that this is no longer the case. We conducted interviews at four independent game studios in order to share their game design documentation processes, revealing that, while an exhaustive GDD is rare, the meta-genre functions are preserved in a variety of mediated ways.
by Avery C. Edenfield
For decades, sexual violence prevention and sexual consent have been a recurrent topic on college campuses and in popular media, most recently because of the success of the #MeToo movement. As a result, institutions are deeply invested in communicating consent information. This article problematizes those institutional attempts to teach consent by comparing them to an alternative grounded in queer politics. This alternative information may provide a useful path to redesigning consent information by destabilizing categories of gender, sexuality, and even consent itself.
by Michael Meng, Stephanie Steinhardt, and Andreas Schubert
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) play a crucial role in modern software engineering. However, learning to use a new API often is a challenge for developers. In order to support the learning process effectively, we need to understand how developers use documentation when starting to work with a new API. We report an exploratory study that observed developers while they solved programming tasks involving a simple API. The results reveal differences regarding developer activities and documentation usage that a successful design strategy for API documentation needs to accommodate. Several guidelines to optimize API documentation are discussed.
by Michael Albers
East Carolina University
Michael Albers is a professor at East Carolina University, where he teaches in the professional writing program. In 1999, he completed his PhD in technical communication and rhetoric from Texas Tech University. Before coming to ECU, he taught for 8 years at the University of Memphis. He is a Senior Member of ACM. In addition to his work on CDQ, he was SIGDOC Secretary from 1999 – 2005 and the 2013 SIGDOC Conference Chair. He also chaired the Symposium on Communicating Complex Information from 2012 – 2018. Before earning his PhD, he worked for 10 years as a technical communicator, writing software documentation and performing interface design. His research interests include designing documentation on the communication of complex information.
by Kristin Marie Bivens
Harold Washington College
The United States is struggling with an opioid overdose (OD) crisis. The opioid OD epidemic includes legally prescribed and illicitly acquired opioids. Regardless of if an opioid is legal, understanding users’ contexts of use is essential to design effective methods for individuals to reverse opioid OD. In other words, if health information is not designed to be contextually relevant, the opioid OD health information will be unusable. To demonstrate these distinct healthcare design contexts, I extend Patient Experience Design (PXD) to include community-based and technology-based contexts of use by analyzing two case examples of the Chicago Recovery Alliance’s and PwrdBy’s attempts to decrease deaths by opioid OD. Next, I discuss implications of community-based and technology-based PXD within communities of opioid users, critiquing each method and suggesting four contexts of use-heuristic categories to consider when designing health communication information for users in these contexts.
by Victor Del Hierro
This article argues for the inclusion of Hip Hop communities in technical communication research. Through Hip Hop, technical communicators can address the recent call for TPC work to expand the field through culturally sensitive and diverse studies that honor communities and their practices. Using a Hip Hop community in Houston as a case study, this article discusses the way DJs operate as technical communicators within their communities. Furthermore, Hip Hop DJs build complex relationships with communities to create localized and accessible content. As technical communicators, Hip Hop practitioners can teach us to create community-based communication design for more diverse contexts.
by Ryan Rogers and Laura Dunlow
Gaming literature largely treats customization as a monolithic concept. This article provides three experiments that test the differences between appearance customization and ability customization. While these three studies provided a degree of replication, they examined between 105 and 147 college students in three different video game scenarios (no game play, non-human avatar, and difficult game). While the results varied slightly based on the scenario, evidence emerged that appearance customization was more likely than ability customization to enhance participant attitude toward the game and likelihood to spend money on the game. The findings of these studies should inform the types of customization used in a variety of domains and should provide guidance on the design process to offer simple and cost-effective methods to improve sales and attitudes toward content. Specifically, appearance customization is a more effective way for organizations to influence users.