While reading a lengthy thriller, Mark stumbled across the phrase “his heart in his mouth” (or “her heart…”) often enough to bug him. Using the Kindle’s search tool, he discovered the phrase occurred 17 times.
My interest in Mark’s “user experience” is as an author. Here’s the sting for me. As an author, I need to be hyper-vigilant when writing. I need to deliver positive usability – a book that doesn’t unintentionally bug readers.
With people finding new ways to read and analyse text, I need to find new ways to keep them engaged and entertained. I need to use word combinations that are fresh and fun.
And I need to proof read and re-write my manuscripts until I have terminated any passages that are dull or don’t work.
Mind you, that’s a whole lot easier with a 40,000 word manuscript than one ten times longer.
Among the various e-newsletters I subscribe to is Good Experience, which is written by usability expert* Mark Hurst. In his 26 August edition Mark quotes a Wall Street Journal article about how many senior managers have little idea of the typical consumer experience of their customers.
As Mark puts it, this is easy to fix with LBWA – Listening By Walking Around. It sounds simple but it isn’t. The truth is that too many managers are so busy managing stuff that they lose track of how real people use their products or services. But what has this got to do with being an author, you ask.
Many people don’t know how to find a story. At a recent workshop I conducted, some of the students didn’t put pens to paper for lack of ideas. Others looked at what their mates wrote and changed a word or two, rather than coming up with something unique.
Stories are everywhere. They’re in the reason your teacher arrived at school looking unshaven and red-eyed. They’re in the old woman collecting aluminium cans from bins in your local park. They’re in the teenage couple arguing on a railway platform and the cranky mum walking three paces in front of a bawling toddler at the supermarket.
All you need to do is LBWA – and then ask yourself what has led to this scene or what will follow it. And why.
* Cool job, eh? It’s all about watching how people do stuff – and then thinking how to make it easier.