One big question will hover over this industry in the years ahead: will we even use the term “technical writing” in the 2020s? As technical writing is ultimately about enhancing user experience, many argue the discipline falls under the UX writing umbrella and that the term will fall away in the years to come. This doesn’t devalue technical writing— on the contrary, it places writing at the center of design, as opposed to a supporting role. This discussion will be a big part of 2020 thinking.
Read on for other related trends we expect in the coming year.
Remote work is a growing trend, and the cloud is helping to create seamless environments in which remote workers can collaborate. Technical writers will benefit from this trend, allowing them to access, edit, and track documents from anywhere on a cloud server. Plus, users can also benefit from the “latest available” documents that can be updated instantly.
Another trending tool is full-text search, or the ability for a search engine to examine all the words in a document, PDF, and, increasingly, images and audio, too. While this powerful tool has obvious benefits for end users, who can more easily find the documentation they need, technical writers can also benefit when conducting research and updating outdated information.
Smartphones are the leading technology that people use to stay connected today. Technical writers must take this mobile-first reality into account in all aspects of their work moving forward. This means focusing on a few key points: brevity, clarity, and ease of use.
Mobile content, to be effective, must be concise. Smartphones offer a more restricted visual space for users, many of whom don’t want to spend time scrolling for the content they need. As a result, writing for mobile also needs to emphasize clarity in such a small space. Finally, it’s critical that technical writing optimize the reading experience for mobile-first users. For example, long descriptions won’t work, but bullet pointed lists often do.
We’ve talked a lot about blended learning here, combining, for example, technical documentation with videos and face-to-face instruction. We expect to see that trend only grow in 2020, as companies invest in both in-person and digital learning. Technical writers, therefore, must learn to share information and write concisely for multiple different types of audiences, from busy professionals around a conference table to knowledge workers watching videos to quickly learn new skills.