What does a Technical Writer do?
Technical Writers see the forest and the trees as experts who are well-versed on the business's objectives as well as the intricate feature details of its products. The content that Technical Writers produce helps anyone who touches the products including staff and stakeholders, in addition to customers and end-users.
Technical Writers may be permanent employees of a company, contractors employed by a talent agency, or freelance contractors. Typical projects for a Technical Writer include:
- user guides
- online help
- in-app help
- installation guides
- white papers
- website content
- support articles
- business requirements
- technical requirements
- product specifications
- charts and diagrams
- technology blogs
- training materials
- product demos
- stakeholder pitches
- user stories
- user personas
- product/feature videos
- product style guides
- documentation libraries
- documentation standards
On a grand scale, Technical Writers save companies millions by supporting customers, reducing or eliminating Help Center costs, minimizing liability from product misuse or defects, and allocating profits to growth rather than repair. In extreme cases, such as in the medical field, technical content saves lives and reduces or eliminates injury from product misuse.
On a smaller scale, Technical Writers translate complex technical information into simple, educational language. One of the biggest issues facing organizations who lack a Technical Writer is that documentation is written by the product's developers, managers, or analysts. While these individuals are intelligent, well-versed in the products, and, likely, well-spoken, they are not writers.
Companies have the best intentions when assigning Technical Writing tasks to the experts working on the products--these experts know the products best, and having existing resources working on these tasks is the least expensive solution. However, these resources are often too close to the product to write from an objective perspective that best serves the audience receiving it. The resulting information is typically:
- too technical for average end-users, even if they are tech-savvy
- too specific or too broad in an attempt to address a specific customer question
- difficult to find as there may not be an online help structure, or one exists that is disorganized
- redundant since there is no managing editor or documentation library in place
- technically or grammatically incorrect as there is no review process in place
- obsolete or incorrect as there is no managing editor to archive or update information
- missing as there is no content strategy determining what information is needed
Technical Writers are, sometimes, an underrated member of the product development team because what a Technical Writer does is not quite understood. They are thought of as "only a writer," and that is an understandable assumption since, as writers, they spend a considerable amount of time in isolation, whittling away on their current volume. However, Technical Writers are one of the best resources--and best kept secrets-to tap into for information.
They have the privilege of learning the business from many angles and create content for many audiences who touch the products. They get their information from many sources: the product itself, existing documentation, the business owner, CEO, VPs, product owners, stakeholders, customers, end-users, software developers, quality analysts, business analysts, UX designers, project managers, sales, marketing. Technical Writers are the librarians of your business, masters of your information.