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Term of the Week: Interaction

What is it?

The process by which a person uses a technology to communicate or perform tasks together with a computer, mobile device, or other technological product.

Why is it important?

More and more, people are interacting with technologies in similar ways as with other humans. This interaction with technology has become part of our daily, routine conduct as we live our lives and get things done.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this?

Interaction is about use, and customers judge technology based on how easy it is to use. We need to focus not only on what we write or create, but especially on how what we have created is used. How easy is it for customers to interact with what we have created? Does it help them solve their problems? Do they get the right answer?

The new interactive model forces technical communicators to think about the customer experience and the outcome – the way our words are used. The customer is active when addressing technical information. That information might be embedded in a software interface or in a website; it can appear as an interactive eBook or overlaid in an augmented reality application. These interactive systems are a far cry from static textual manuals. They communicate with the user following the same rules and principles as human communication.

This means that a technical communicator needs to take into account not only content, voice, and tone, but also the relationship of customers to the product – what are they trying to do and how will they know if they’re successful?

To measure interaction, we must measure use. We must come up with a series of customer tasks and then get real customers to use the technology to try and complete these tasks. We measure two key things: success rate and time on task. Our job is to support the interaction and help customers complete their tasks as quickly and easily as possible.

About Gerry McGovern

Photo of Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern helps large organizations become more customer centric on the web. His commercial clients include Microsoft, Cisco, NetApp, VMware, and IBM. He has also consulted with the US, UK, Dutch, Canadian, Norwegian and Irish governments. He is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords, a company that has developed a set of tools and methods to help large organizations identify and optimize their customers’ top online tasks. He has written five books on how the web has facilitated the rise of customer power. The Irish Times described Gerry as one of five visionaries who have had a major impact on the development of the web. In 2015, he was shortlisted for a Webby for his writings.

Term: Interaction



Twitter: @gerrymcgovern