After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

From Off the Shelf Onto a Screen

Posted on December 9, 2015
Filed Under Communication, Technology | Leave a Comment

The annals of TC World hold a piece that we enjoying coming back to, as a reminder of the noble lineage of technical communication and how it’s been developing into the digital age. End-users have always needed guidance materials, but now they’re using them in an ever-more screen-centered, collaborative environment.

“A technical writer,” Monalisa Sen and Debarshi Gupta Biswas note, “has truly become ‘an honest mediator between people who create technology and who use technology.'”

fd5da91df4And the print industry has lost its exclusive hold over technical materials. “The demand of the day was mobility, optimum use of digital space, and accessibility. Most of these were lacking in a user manual, which now became a product best suited for a bookshelf.” And they provide an evolutionary table of the craft’s development.

The broad application of technical materials, of course, depends on the industry you’re in, and how specialized its requirements are. But the crisp style, formatting and ready accessibility of operational material is applicable everywhere.

You turn to a technical manual, or sheet of instructions, for guidance – clear, tested instructions – on how to to something safely and efficiently. That’s a noble aim for any kind of writing, but it’s imperative in a technical context.

Shaping the nature of today’s technical materials, Sen and Biswas note, is the pervasive nature of their transmission, through such means as YouTube, on-screen texts and other means of digital formatting.

“An analysis of the emerging technologies,” they conclude, “suggests that software products in the future will have well-designed and intuitive user interfaces, with a reduced need for detailed reference manuals but crisp on-screen instructions to facilitate transfer of information to the users.” And text-intensive formats will decline.

So if you want to be in the forefront of the field, think about how information is best displayed digitally and without turning page-after-page. No great revelation, but certainly the trend of our increasingly screen-centered times. – Doug Bedell 


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