The Data Story

I’ve mentioned before that I am something of a Data Nerd. This is unusual for someone who is also a “word artist,” but hey, a girl can wear more than one hat, can’t she? I’m also a mother, a triathlete, and a lover of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. In high school, no one would have pegged me as a future triathlete, and no one who knows me now would imagine that I was ever *not* an athlete, so there you have it: the Venn diagram of Susan.

At the heart of this is data. But data about just me is not all that interesting. Data about thousands of people, and especially customers – now that is interesting. Even better is this funky cool tool called “Google Trends.”

As a technical writer and UX Copy Writer, I find this handy-dandy tool super fun and useful. You may be asking why. I’ll tell ya.

With a heavy-lifter of a creation like this, I can sit back and think about trends and numbers in ways I used to have to do lots and lots of work to get at. Research is a UX/UI wonk’s best asset. If I understand what people like, what people do, what people are looking for – I am on top of the world! I can simply and easily take a look at what was, generally, trending in the United States in 2014:

Searches included World Cup, Ebola, Malaysia Airlines, and Flappy Bird. People wanted to know about Kim Novak, and Jared Leto, and the Paleo diet was all the rage. By 2018, folks were clicking to learn about how to apply magnetic lashes. The Paleo diet was gone, but the Keto diet was in. Mega Millions was a top search, along with Logan Paul and Megan Markle.

Peoples’ interests and learning curves mark what I need to know, and they show this in words. Words make their decisions, drive their purchases, and reveal their inner thoughts.

So why is all this information so important? Again, I’ll tell ya.

I like to know which words people choose, and why they choose them. Wouldn’t you like to know why I write this blog, and why I choose the topics I do? I choose the topics because something pops into my head, or creeps its way in after I think about it for a while, and it is something that has been trending, or poking away and needs (in my opinion) to be discussed. It has to do with tech writing, or aspects of technology, women, and writing, and therefore fits the general parameters of this forum. Follow? But then, also it has to interest me. So there is an overlap. That’s where the Venn diagram hits. My interests, crossing over with my expertise, crossing over with something that I think will appeal to YOU.

And then, I write about it. But without the data that I could gather from some nifty tool like Google Trends, where would I be? I’d have no idea that the latest trend, in May of 2019, is that there have been more than 100K searches for Theresa May, and more than 20K of those searches were in Canada. Neat, too, that over 5k Canadian folks searched today (5/24) for the results of the cricket match between Pakistan and Afghanistan, right? Again, why does this matter? Well, because I doubt that any reference in my design documents in the US that refer to cricket would conjure the sport as much as they would reference the insect. And while Theresa May is the top search in Canada, the movie “Aladdin” is the top search in the US, so that tells us a bit about what Americans are thinking this weekend, doesn’t it?

To tie this all back to data and words, I’ll keep it simple. The more we know about users, the more we know. This data isn’t spying, and it isn’t creepy. It is downright useful. As a UX designer and writer, as a technical writer, and as a strong customer advocate, it really, truly, sincerely is all information-based. Lots of times, people in my orbit who are not in the tech realm get a little freaked out about all of this information gathering. But I don’t. I like it a whole lot when I can use data – information – numbers – WORDS – to get me where I am going and get me what I need a lot faster.

Even better when I can deliver that to my users.



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