A brief reminder for technical writing
I recently found a note in an old notebook for work and it was from just before the bottom fell out of society in the naïve days of the fall of 2019. There was so much I was excited about then which has all been panned (or “on hold” indefinitely which in my book is the same thing). Providing the necessary context for the content of this post is a practice I try to maintain when I explain what software is doing in technical writing.
Technical writers consider context in the consideration of an audience. My note reminded me of two important questions related to communicating with users:
- How skilled are your users?
- How do your users learn?
These two inquiries will help a technical writer to correctly contextualize the software about which he writes.
How skilled are your users?
What a user base ultimately represents is a community of people. Communities can come in many shapes and sizes, languages and cultures, traditions and rituals. Your users might already know about your software. Do you have a well-used introduction section? Referencing it might come in handy if you want to skip over certain things like that since you want to encourage users to keep using the introduction as a knowledge base. This leads directly to the next question.
How do your users learn?
Do your users have a knowledge base (KB)? Is it well-adopted? The KB is where technical writing is published and read so its metrics should be measured for the sake of understanding who is (or isn’t) reading specific technical writing when it is available.
Know your audience
If you don’t know what your users know, how can you expect them to understand your software?
If you don’t know how your users come to know things, how can you expect them to learn your software?