User Experience: User Behavior and its Importance in the Technical Communication Field

I am guilty of immediately opening my apps (especially when it’s from Target) as soon as I get a notification about a sale. Sometimes I just browse, but more often than not I buy something I want. This behavior occurs with many of the apps I have on my phone and Apple Watch because the notifications are sent to my email, through a text, and as a message through the app. But what creates the urge to tap on the notification and dive into all the sales or special offers? Gustav Verhulsdonck and Nadya Shalamova’s article Creating Content that Influences People: Considering User Experience and Behavioral Design in Technical Communication explores this question through user experience. What is user experience, and why is it important to the technical communications field? User experience (UX) research entails comprehending the ways technology can make users react through ques and it’s important to understand the ethical implications of this knowledge.

One way to go about understanding user experience, or UX as referenced in the article, is to use a notable example. In a scene from the comedy show The Office, two characters, Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute, are consistently making fun of one another. But in one episode, Jim takes things a bit too far by unwillingly making Dwight react on command by offering Dwight an Altoid every time Jim’s computer makes a noise. Within a few weeks, Jim successfully makes Dwight seek an Altoid every time he hears the computer chime. This is done without Dwight knowing that he fell into a pattern accomplished through the use of a reward system.  Users, in many cases, have reward systems on their phones, such as coupons that are sent to their emails and sales notifications that pop up on our phones.

Most major companies, like Amazon and Apple, use specific techniques (or methods) to keep consumers (or users) interested in what they’re selling. Why is this important to the field of technical communications? UX research, much like user behavior, can provide clarity on factors such as target audience information and trends. Essentially assessing how users respond to theories and practices used in the tech comm field. One way UX differs from technical communication theories and practices is that it specifically focuses on a cause-and-effect relationship between the technology and the user. The authors elaborate on this cause-and-effect relationship through a term called ‘nudging.’

Verhulsdonck and Shalamova  state that this technology has the power to nudge an individual to act on something. One example that the authors use involves an Apple Watch because it has various apps that can notify the user of a text reminder (for health, appointment, etc.) or reminder phone call. The reaction to the notification is the purpose of the study because when a user is notified through a ding or a vibration, they act on it by opening or dismissing the notification. Either way the individual will take the time to act on the nudge. s it the notification alone that causes the user to reply to the text, go for a run, or buy the item(s) on sale? No, there are various forms of nudging, like specific vibrations or dings from different apps, Amazon slashing out prices and displaying discounted ones, or Target’s app sale notifications. UX research focuses on the end goal within a company and how they can beneficially implement their means to  reach an audience or abuse it to keep their users interested.


Creating Content that Influences People: Considering User Experience and Behavioral Design in Technical Communication, by Gustav Verhulsdonck and Nadya Shalamova

Viewpoint Written by Andi Silva, Texas State University

Viewpoint Edited by Laura Soran, Texas State University

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