Contrary to some dramatic outcry about technical writing being supposedly dying because of foolproof apps’ popularity, we don’t believe that easy-to-use smartphone tools are going to replace AutoCAD, Cubase SX or laundry machines anytime soon. Techwriting is thriving now more than ever, and the fact that it keeps evolving (like anything else) doesn’t justify panic. Agreed, it is more than obvious that not every tool out there (be it software or analogue hardware) needs tons of technical documentation to get by. You may not need a techwriter to tell you how to wear glasses or use the Messenger app. But you do need techcomm specialists if you’re serious about the product you sell and if you actually care about your customers. Even the prospective ones. Why?
Mark Baker, the author of Every Page is Page One, openly says that technical writers are traditionally terrible at attempting to express their value in business terms. Luckily, 3di seems to be an exception. A quick read through our case studies shows that techcomm services can not only be effectively sold, but first of all turn out measurably profitable for those who buy them. We don’t merely “believe” there is real business value in well-written tech content. We know it for a fact.
If you want to keep your customers happy, and you’d better do, you can’t afford ignoring their problems. And problems are exactly what they are going to come across, again and again, even if you think your product is so indisputably easy to use. They may not spend hours on leafing through manuals like this, but they definitely google for solutions they need (by the way, ever wondered what it’s like to be a techwriter at Google?) and thus their semiconscious demand for quickly accessible content is growing on a par with your product’s functionalities. This is partly why you want your docs well-written in terms of content and SEO. Because after another question with no answer and another problem with no solution, your beloved users may end up scouring Internet forums that boil with anger-fuelled opinions, and simply leave you for someone else. “What? Just because they didn’t find some smoothly written task topic?” Yes, just because they didn’t find it. Again.
Now, think in terms of people who work for you. Of course, you want their job uninterrupted and you’d like to limit potential problems to the minimum. Not only because it makes their lives easier, but because it allows you to do things in ways that are smarter and more efficient. How do you do that? You can’t rely solely on sending them on trainings all over the globe, because their conference notes are unlikely to help them with a stuck packer machine, or with finding a crucial piece of information on internal processes in a matter of seconds. You can certainly have all your sales, personnel or administration info scattered all around the company intranet, but the consequences come down to a single word: chaos. And we don’t need to dwell on what chaos means for business. That is why well-organised content saves you time and money. And lots of hassle.
A slightly less obvious aspect is that well-made tech content not only helps you keep old clients with you, but may just as well attract new ones. This scenario, where a hypothetical user bases his negative purchase decision only on bad tech content experience, may be a bit too close to techwriters’ wishful thinking, (as Mark Baker, again, rightly points out), but it is definitely true that we all happen to come across tech docs well before making final buying choices, especially when the price someone wants us to pay is more than two bucks, and definitely when we’re trying to get our heads around trial versions of more sophisticated software. No matter whether it’s a traditional PDF manual, a help website or a series of short YouTube tutorials, people will keep googling for technical information before buying what they’re interested in. If you want people to buy your product, you want them to find the right content about it. Content that would be more meaningful than marketing babble, but less intimidating than technical gobbledygook, because it’s not just a help tool that is at stake, it’s also your product’s business card, the next thing people will come across after seeing the ads and the product itself.
The truth is that technical content, apart from serving its basic purposes, is closely related to marketing, whether you want it or not. The big players seem to realise that, as IBM took three years to run a serious survey to assess the importance of technical information for their users. 88.7% of them said it is “important” or “very important” in making “the initial purchase decision”. Another one: SDL carried out a market survey to measure The Importance of Product Content in Customer Experience Management. 79% of respondents agreed that high quality product information “improves their impression of a product and brand” and “makes it more likely they’ll purchase additional product from the same manufacturer”. 72% said it “makes it more likely that they’d recommend a product and brand to others”. It sort of makes sense, doesn’t it?
We could say much more about how techwriters’ feedback can help you make better UI decisions. Or how techcomm solutions reduce technical support costs (look at our example). Or how they directly add to building a brand voice and brand coherence. Not to mention increasing safety at work or when using a product. But, since you’re reading this text, you probably started thinking about those matters already.
What you need to remember is that techcomm is one more area of competition where you do not want to get left behind. Yeah, yeah, you’ll keep hearing that no one reads docs except those who write them. But such reasoning is beside the point, because those docs are not meant to be indulged in in front of a hygge fireplace. They’re meant to be used, and people do use them. That’s why their quality will continue to matter.
(And that’s why Microsoft, Apple and Google keep spending their money on tech comm.)