As a profession, technical writing has undergone some subtle, yet significant, changes. According to UXMatters, the job is increasingly seen as unnecessary as employers look for candidates who can fill more than one critical role. Moreover, companies are beginning to design such great products that they believe user documentation is unnecessary.
However, this shouldn’t discourage anyone from pursuing the career. It just means that the characteristics of a great teach writer are a little different. Here are some to keep in mind:
Tech writers in 2016 are bigger players in overall user experience
Though this isn’t much of a recent change for technical writing, it’s important to emphasize the position’s role in user experience.
“Technical communications is an inherent part of user experience,” Leo Frishberg, principal at Phase II and co-author of the upcoming Presumptive Design, told UXMatters. “Anything that involves people interacting with something is inherently part of the user experience.”
For that reason, great tech writers in 2016 must be able to assert that importance. Tech companies may not know the value of having amazing copy in their content, but writers know very well the difference it makes.
“Tech writers can easily transfer their skills to other user experience positions.”
Writing for the blog “Stories From the Software Salt Mines,” longtime tech writer Jim Grey explained that clean design has, in some ways, replaced tech writing and diminished its role in overall user experience. However, Grey also argued that tech writers can easily transfer their skills to other user experience positions by honing in on others.
Today’s tech writers should have hands-on technical experience
Because employers have been looking for candidates with other tech-related experience to fulfill writing roles, writers have the challenge of stepping up this part of their resumes. According to UXMatters, it may very well become impossible to sustain a career in this field without that kind of experience.
For example, more tech companies are offering application programming interfaces to customers. According to Evans Data’s Developer Population and Demographics Study, 1.2 million software developers are now publishing APIs. This trend provides the opportunity for writers to create content to guide user customization, which more developers could expect of their writers. For this, programming experience is more than a huge plus, it’s an essential.
Tom Johnson, creator of the tech writing blog “I’d Rather Be Writing,” wrote that he predicts the rise of APIs will have a ripple effect on tech writing, which will force the job to evolve. For example, writers will be using more of the same programs as engineers and developers, further closing the gap between them.
Overall, the expectations of tech writers are changing. Like any other writing job, it’s important to broaden your experiences and adapt to the times. Otherwise, you might find yourself stuck in the past.