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I will never forget a Christmas Eve many years ago, when the kids were finally asleep and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus began the assembly of the much desired "brand name" doll house. Out came the tools, out came a hundred or so tiny plastic parts, and out came an instruction sheet written by someone clearly from another land far away. After several hours of attempting to decipher some of the worst instructions ever written, we recruited a neighbor's 12 year old, a seasoned veteran in the world of dream houses, and the assembly was completed in time for Christmas morning. Whenever usability is mentioned, this incident comes to mind. Usability, a term that refers to how easily and effectively a person can use a document, website, or product to achieve a purpose, is an integral element of workplace and technical writing and must not be overlooked at any level. On the web, it's critical for survival...if users can't figure out how to purchase that awesome table lamp, they will quickly go elsewhere on the web to shop. The vendor loses money. If users can't find the information they need, they will move on...there is plenty else out there that will meet their needs. And someone loses money. In the office, if employees spend large amounts of time figuring out unclear documents or deciphering poorly written instructions, the company loses money.

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