Thinking about your technical documentation? Read on to find out why investing in a professional Technical Author can improve customer relations, reduce support costs and improve your overall professional image.
Why do you need to hire a professional Technical Author?
I have no doubt that anyone reading this is perfectly capable of putting together technical documentation themselves, after all, it can’t be that difficult can it?
Well, there are many things to think about when it comes to documentation, and they’re not always obvious. Here are a few examples:
- A common mistake is to miss out essential steps in a procedure because the person writing the instructions is so familiar with the product/process that they do it without thinking about it.
- A professional Author can break your content into discreet chunks to allow it to be re-used across products, processes, and different types of documentation, thereby saving time and money.
- It’s not unusual for non-professional writers to find repetition boring, and to try to make their writing more interesting by using different ways of saying the same thing. This is a bad practice for many reasons, including a. No-one reads the whole manual from front to back, so boredom from repetition is unlikely; b. If you have readers for whom English is not their first language, using different words and expressions for the same thing can be confusing; c. If there is any chance you may need to translate your content in the future, consistency will save you a lot of time and money when it comes around.
- Technical Authors know to write instructions to help users to achieve a goal, rather than just to describe what they can see and how the system works. In my experience, people that create products are quite rightly proud of their achievement and want to tell readers all about it; Most readers just want to know how to get from A to B.
- Probably most importantly, you’re paid to be a Developer, Tester, Product Manager, Marketing expert, etc. Is writing technical documentation really the best use of your time?
I’m sure we’ve all got a self-assembly item home in the past and been driven mad by the awful instructions, only to throw them away and work it out for ourselves. Maybe manufacturers of affordable self-assembly items can get away with such shoddy behaviour, but will your customers allow you to get away with it?
There’s a lot more to the subject than this, but I’m trying to follow my own rules and keeping it short. There’s some more useful information and references on the ISTC (Institute for Scientific and Technical Communicators) website here: The value of technical communication