2015 is well under way, and it’s an exciting year for technical communicators. Judging by the constant buzz and all the bantering and bickering on the profession’s favorite discussion forums, this is a great time to be in our line of work. Due to the ever-increasing amounts of content that organizations need to capture and control in order to remain competitive and compliant, we’re in a Golden Age of opportunity for those with the right skills and savvy.
But, as always, the pitfalls are still there. Here are 3 mistakes you should avoid making during the coming months.
Mistake #1: Thinking like a traditional writer.
One of the toughest challenges for documentation managers is to get their writers to stop thinking in terms of traditional narrative prose and make the shift in mindset to creating modules of discrete, independent content. So if you haven’t yet made that shift, get ready to stop writing the old way and begin designing modular, structured content instead. You’ll need some new skills for this—get them as soon as you can.
Mistake #2: Thinking of yourself as “just” a writer.
As a technical communicator you can’t afford to keep those old blinkers on. Writing is only part of your job description—after all, most of the content you’ll be working with doesn’t exist anywhere yet. These days, to be successful at capturing and controlling content you need to see yourself as a detective and a skilled interviewer as well as a user advocate—and very likely you’ll have to be at least something of a politician, too.
Mistake #3: Thinking that now it’s all about the technology.
No crystal ball is necessary to predict that new CMS technologies will continue to proliferate this year. Mastering new technologies is certainly part of the game, but don’t let it take your focus off your fundamental task, which is creating clear, concise and effective communication. In today’s increasingly complex work environments, it’s more important than ever to create content that’s easily accessible and easy to understand and use. Put your audience’s needs first and the bells and whistles last.