The importance of technical writing in software development
In a digital age with huge developments in technologies, it seems that there are also constant developments in new jobs. Creating new softwares is very complex, however its even harder to get untrained users to utilize the softwares at their full potential. How can a potential user learn to use for example Adobe photo shop, Microsoft Excel, AutoCad, and etc.? Keep in mind that Softwares often vary in their functions but technical writing software are often formatted the same. This is where a software technical writer comes into play – also known as software documentation writer.
We can start by defining what is a technical writer? Well the short answer is, a technical writer helps translate complex information from subject matter experts(SME) into layman and digestible bites for the target audience. Moreover, what happens when you add the word “software” to tech writer? In short a software technical writer breaks down the complexity of setting up and using a software product.
Moreover, why is a software technical writer important?
A statistic by the California Business Journal states that there will be a 22% increase in software development jobs from now to the year 2030. Technology will always continue to evolve, so there will always be a need for software technical writers to create documentation for users that describe different features, how to use, and set up software products.
What type of documentation does a software technical writer create?
A software technical writer breaks down the complexity of setting up and using a software product.
Software technical writers often have to fulfill the role of creating the following:
- User guides / manuals
- Setup instructions / instruction manuals
- Online training courses / modules
- APi Documentation. They are really big in technical Writing Software Documentation. This form of documentation needs to be compatible with 3rd party software products
- White Papers. These are extensively document specific feature of a software document
- User Guides. These are extensively document specific feature of a software document
- How to guides / Help Topics. This is knowledge base and has to be SEO friendly.
- Quick reference guides
- FAQ pages
- Documents reflecting new features of a software product
- Update current material / content to reflect the newest version of a software product.
Note: documentation is not limited to the list above, rather they are just a few examples.
What roles do software documentation writers assume?
They analyze specification of a software product.
Software technical writers analyze requirements of the software and documentations. They have to start by researching the end users/target audience. Similarly, they will need to know how the software is supposed to be used, and address questions from users related to the market industry. A software documentation writer also has to manage clients expectation to make sure that the software product they plan to use actually applies to the industry they work in.
They also have to lead technical engagement document meetings with several SME that helped in developing the software product – i.e. product manager, engineers, programers and etc. This help the software technical writer map how to distribute and deliver the document.
Software technical writers must also be knowledgeable.
They have to be as knowledgeable as the people that make the software products at times. Software technical writers need to map out the different features necessary and related to the purpose of the document. They figure out the importance of certain chain features and list them in sequential order. For example, state the priority and relationship if there is one, maybe one is independent and the other is dependent. Lastly, software technical writers curate, plan and figure out an outline for the technical document. They spend around 80% of their time researching, the other 20% writing. If the information is wrong then the writing will obviously be wrong.
Create interactive manuals for internal/external users of the product.
Software technical writers figure out the tone they want to convey in the technical document. The last thing any documentation writer wants is to make users don’t lose interest while reading. Technical writing in software development definitely needs to maintain professionalism. However, it may not be so bad to make the document light hearted, entertaining, but above all informative.
Furthermore, you have to consider the structure of the document; you can look back at the outline. Pull both the structure and the outline together to develop a software technical document based on the user’s/customer requirements. Lastly you can start working on a draft. Once you finished the draft, then you may want to speak with the SME that helped create the software to get input, make sure you covered all the necessary information, and approvals.
Provide end user engagement by focusing on target audience
With technical writing in software development, content needs to be easy and digestible to grasp by the target audience. Documentation writers have to present content in an engaging way. This can vary in the way you structure and present information, provide data, infographics, and etc. You should also maintain content and information up to date; this can be done by updating content based on user feedback, and updated versions of the software product information.
Easy to go through, technical communication that translates complexities
The key here is to simplify technical concepts and information. Software documentation writers can do this through defining hard to understand terms, finding synonyms for complex words, tutorials, etc. In addition, you can also explain different features of the software product in layman terms. Moreover, showcasing different software product usages is complex but also helps users understand better. You can also showcase different troubleshooting methods the user can implement. Something important worth mentioning is that this section is heavily similar to API Documentation.
Software technical writers need to implement design elements
It is important to include a variety of infographics; the first thing eyes are drawn to are images. This can include screenshots, graphs, charts, and etc. – only when needed. Infographics can help when you have too much information that will not be translated well over written text; overall it improves readability. Incorporating design elements such as animations can help the flow of eye movement.
If you are planning to include examples showcasing software product usage then you may want to consider breaking the example into subsections that illustrate well what is being done in each step, You may include tutorials and screen shots here to digest an architectural design.
The technology industry will always be growing, and along with that are software products. Software technical writers are important because they can break down the complexity of setting up and using a software product. As a result of this, there will will always be a need for technical writing in software development.
How Essential Data Corporation can help you
Whether you need a single software technical writer for a brief project, or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, the quality of our work is guaranteed for you. Our clients’ work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices for the entire length of your project at no additional cost. Contact us at (800) 221-0093 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Pablo Mota