Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

George Pullman

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Lopez

Third Advisor

Mary Hocks

Fourth Advisor

Beki Grinter


This dissertation provides a new understanding about the role of communication in the User Experience design process. For eight months, I conducted an ethnographic, participatory case study of “the EmailFactory," a mid-sized technology company that builds and runs a web-based email-marketing platform. Throughout the study, I explored how the company collects user research, shares it, and uses it to inform their design process and company decisions. Through this dissertation, I examine the entire rhetorical situation of user experience research at this company: the author (those who gather and share the research), the audience (the designers, developers, corporate executives, other company employees, and, at times, the public), the context (the company culture and everyday environment), and the purpose (a company and web-based application that directly benefits from the research findings). First, I provide a thick description of the company and its culture then describe and analyze how the company shares and communicates user experience research to both internal company audiences and external public audiences. I argue that as a field Technical Communication knows very little about how user research is used and communicated once it is gathered and analyzed. My findings—the descriptions of how user research is communicated and then used to improve both the EmailFactory product and company—fills this gap in current research and contributes to our knowledge about what writing and communication looks like within User Experience work.