Five Thoughts on Writing Human Factors Guidance Documentation

Aug 15, 2014




As part of our work recently we have been helping a couple of organisations with some of their internal Human Factors guidance and standards.  This sort of work is often both rewarding and challenging in equal measure, and we’ve learnt that there is no substitute for time and collaboration when it comes to putting these sorts of documents together.

Below are our top five recommendations to keep in mind when working on this sort of project…

  1. Clarify whether you are writing for Human Factors Specialists or people with an interest in HF. HF Specialists will expect guidance that acknowledges their previous knowledge and extends it. Non-HF Specialists may be discouraged from reading documents where unnecessary HF industry “jargon” is used.  This is the basic ‘know your user’ starting point.
  2. Understand the constraints within the sponsoring organisation. Sometimes the documents are required to follow a particular corporate format. Make sure you understand the template constraints and how to use optimally the template attributes to emphase important information and present supporting information.
  3. Use simple language and clear paragraph structure. The best approach is to use the active voice and to present the information in an inverted “V” type of writing structure. i.e present the objective/ requirement, describe the constraints and dependencies, expand the description of the guidance, and illustrate the point with an example.
  4. Be authorative – layout the best solution or provide a route through the decision making process to the ideal solution. Busy people don’t like to be presented with a list of options.
  5. Use illustrated examples –Sometimes even the most well written guidance can seem a bit abstract or be difficult to read. Provide plenty of illustrated examples of the guidance in practice. This helps the reader see how implementation of the guidance looks in practice.

We can help you write, revise or otherwise establish Human Factors guidance documents within your organisation. Please give us a call or email if you would like to find out more.

Post by Mel Lowe

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