As its practitioners know, technical writing is often the unsung hero of the user’s experience with a new piece of software, an online platform, or a new interactive tool. While visual design may be flashier and back-end coding may bring the product to life, without clear, understandable instructions users can quickly become lost.
Yet technical writing today doesn’t always look like it did a decade ago. We’ve closely watched three key trends that we think will continue to influence the industry into 2019 that speak to this evolution.
Manuals will not die, just evolve.
Even today, technical writers have seen their bread and butter product—the user manual—go through many different iterations. While some products still arrive with the textbook-sized manual, increasingly organizations are incorporating technical guidance into the experience itself, either through helpful pop-ups, how-to guides, or live customer assistance.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for technical writing, however. Nearly every product intended for everyday use—whether it’s a piece of software or a physical object—will need to be explained in a user-friendly way, even if that explanation doesn’t always end up in a traditional manual. That means that technical writers are in demand as much, if not more, today than they ever have been before.
Documentation will take many forms.
As we discussed in an earlier article, with the advent of technologies like APIs, technical writers have had to adapt their documentation to suit the needs of a new group of users, often with significant technical skills.
This has led to the rise of a new kind of documentation on systems such as Github, where technical writers can contribute guidelines alongside the code itself. At the same time, technical writers are being called upon to incorporate their documentation into software and online platforms themselves through disciplines like UX copywriting. All of these pursuits are still technical writing, even if they look a little different than technical writing traditionally has.
Clarity will win over bells and whistles.
It’s the writer’s golden rule: after all is said and done, the reader must be able to understand what you’re saying. And this is especially true in the technical writing field, where clarity and efficiency are at a premium.
While it’s tempting to use all the bells and whistles that come with modern software and web development systems, sometimes the easiest answer is to simply write clearly and concisely. We don’t see that going away anytime soon in 2019 or beyond.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on trends in technical writing throughout 2019, so watch this space for updates throughout the year.