The value of an experienced technical writer is obvious to some and not so obvious to others. In my experience, the role of a technical writer is often misunderstood. Frequently, they are perceived as a necessity only after a customer complains about the existence or quality of supporting documentation for the company’s products or services.
I realize that there are some who may never appreciate the true value that an experienced technical writer offers. But for those willing to explore it, here are a few key ways that I personally believe an experienced technical writer can help your organization:
- Identify the Target Audience – An experienced technical writer always begins with understanding WHO they are targeting for their written material. Knowing your target audience drives how the content is written, presented and delivered. The writer actually becomes an advocate for the target audience and has their best interest in mind at all times. Understanding the needs of the audience using the materials helps the writer place themselves in that user’s position, taking time to ensure a positive user experience which ultimately reflects well upon the company’s products or services.
- Convey the Knowledge of Experts – Probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of a technical writer is the thought that domain expertise is essential for success. What many clients don’t fully grasp is the fact that a good technical writer does not need to be an expert in the subject matter that they are writing about. Rather, the role of a technical writer is to work closely with subject matter experts to capture, translate and convey their knowledge to the target audience. It certainly helps to have knowledge of the domain space, but an experienced technical writer should be able to enter any company in any industry and write about virtually any topic or subject matter.
- Determine the Best Delivery Medium – Based on the understanding of the documentation requirements, an experienced technical writer should be able to determine the best delivery medium of the information they produce for the target audience. For example, if the audience will be viewing the material on both desktop and mobile devices, then a responsive design would likely be a good approach for designing the documentation. Another example may be having printed material available for service technicians who spend their time in remote locations where internet access isn’t readily available.
- Establish the Information Architecture – One of the more helpful ways an experienced technical writer can help is by establishing an information architecture for the material. Taking time to arrange the content in such a way that content can be easily located improves the usability of the material. Improved usability is always appreciated by end users and always reflects well upon the company producing the material.
- Simplify Procedures and Concepts – An experienced technical writer always seeks ways to improve the performance of the target audience. If you allow your writer(s) to focus on the “art” of creating documentation, you will often find that the content is improved with each iteration.
- Provide Consistency in Messaging – An experienced technical writer can ensure consistency between your product material and marketing messaging. How many times have you heard horror stories about a company delivering something different than that which was sold? Starting off on the wrong foot with a new customer is no way to build trusting business relationships. Consistency in messaging helps customers transition from excited prospects within the sales cycle to loyal customers who enjoy benefiting from the products and services they were sold.
- More than a Writer – An experienced writer is more than just a technical writer. Those clients who help remove barriers often find that technical writers can add a lot more value by getting involved in other aspects of the product development life cycle. For example, a company that is using an experienced technical writer to produce software documentation may find that they can also contribute to requirements gathering, design documentation, usability testing, debugging efforts or training. If you are willing to break down barriers and engage your writer(s) with intention, you will quickly find that an experienced technical writer can add tremendous value to your organization….IF you allow it.
At the end of the day, an experienced technical writer can be an untapped resource that adds tremendous value to your organization. It’s perfectly fine to bring a writer in with a defined set of objectives, however, don’t be afraid to explore new territory by engaging that writer in areas where you’re struggling. You may find that you can expand the scope of your writer’s role to address areas where other resources were needed.
If you would like more information on how Neotechnics can provide technical writing services (and more) for your organization, please contact us. We would love to help you explore areas where we could help.