You have spent the last six months working on an exciting new product. The execution is flawless. The features make your product stand apart and deliver true value to your prospects. Honestly, it’s a work of art.
And, then it hits you. You need to create user manuals that outlines the functionality of the product and provides instructions to users. So, you ask your developers to do it since they’ve worked on this project for the past couple of months and understand it best.
But, then you get your documentation, and it’s a mess. There’s page after page of technical blabbering that’s dull and uninspiring. I mean, you’ve worked on the product and know how amazing it is, but even you are bored by the damn manual.
“The built-in function implements the *jargon* *jargon* for format specifications, although some of the *jargon* *jargon* are only supported by *jargon*.
You knew your developers are not Shakespeare, but you didn’t expect such a snoozer.
If you have a difficult time maintaining focus, you can only imagine how the end-users will feel.
So, what should you do?
Well, first of all, asking your developers to create knowledge base was a mistake (we’ll explain why, in a second.) Secondly, you need technical writers skilled in making even the most complex information easy to understand.
Why Developers Write Horrible Documentation
Your developers love to solve problems, implement new features, and squash bugs. And, they are pretty brilliant at this. But, they hate writing. Most engineers can’t write a single coherent sentence, let alone a user manual.
That’s because writing and programming are two different skills. One requires abstract thinking and problem solving while the other requires great language skills, conciseness, and playfulness. Sure, both developers and writers share some skills like reasoning and problem solving but they manifest differently.
That’s not to say that all developers are bad writers. Some of them know how to create straightforward, well-organized sentences. For most of them, however, this task is a challenge, and they’ll do anything to escape the act of writing. So, even though your developers understand your product best and might seem like the perfect person to create user manuals, it’s actually better to work with a technical writer.
We know what you’re thinking.
“How can someone write about my product without understanding everything I’ve learned in the past few months/years? How can they write for me if they aren’t me?”
To be blunt: that’s their job.
Professional writers can adapt everything from their tone to their writing style to the identity of your business. They conduct interviews with you and your employees to get a feel of the personality of your company. Niche expert writers often have hands-on experience in your industry so getting to the heart of complex topics isn’t something difficult.
Reasons You Need Technical Writers for Your Knowledge Base
As you probably know by now, creating a knowledge base for internal reference or customer self-help can be a challenge. Not only that you need to explain facts about your technology in a simplistic and understandable manner, but you also need to ensure that the information is accurate and consistent with your brand’s style and identity.
In other words: ugh!
Enough complaining already and let’s look for a solution.
Here’s how technical writers can help you create user manuals that won’t hurt the brain of your end-users.
They Know How to Make Complex Issues Sound Simple
Albert Einstein once said that if you can’t explain something simply, then most probably you didn’t understand the concept well enough. That comes from the guy who summarized one of the most complex equations in history in a simple “e=mc².”
Technical writers are not Einstein, but they do have one thing in common: the ability to convey complicated information in simpler terms. That 20-page long document your developers sent to you, they will make it shorter, snappier, and easy to comprehend even by the technologically impaired.
They Will Save You Time and Money
Many small businesses run a lean operation, paying close attention to every penny they spend. For most of them, hiring a technical writer seems like a luxury they can live without. So, they decide to develop their documentation on their own.
Here’s the problem: if your user’s manuals are hard to comprehend, unclear, and contain grammatical and technical errors, they might cost your business, money in the long-term. If the end-user, whether it’s your employees or your customers, don’t understand them, you’ll have to waste time and resources to redo them.
Again, if you bring a technical writing service too late in the process, you’ll probably have to pay more than if you’d hire them from the beginning. You’ll have to invest resources to get the writers up to speed with the product and help them understand its value so that they can communicate clearly.
They Know How to Speak the Language of Your Audience
Imagine if Apple would have advertised its iPod as “1GB of MP3 storage.” Most probably you wouldn’t have paid close attention to it and dismissed it as some techy gadget. Instead, they’ve sold it as “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Now, who wouldn’t want that?
The problem with asking your developers to create your knowledge base is that they are great at listing the features of your product but do a terrible job when it comes to communicating the benefits.
Your features sound amazing on paper and you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished, but your audience is interested in just one thing: what’s in it for them? How can these features make their life better and easier?
They Are Impartial
Your developers have put blood, sweat, and tears into creating the product. They could ramble on for hours about every feature down to why this button color works best than the other. They’ve put careful thought into every detail.
And, that’s why they shouldn’t be the ones writing your documentation. They’re too close to the project and too enamored with it to present it objectively.
Technical writers, on the other hand, can see the big picture and lay down the key points your users need to know and understand.
Professional Formatting and Presentation
Your manuals, tutorials, or FAQs, are a crucial part of your brand. Technical writers know how to format the documents so that they look professional. They work closely with designers to choose the right color, font, and size that can help communicate your brand’s style and identity.
Pairing Writers and Developers for the Best of Both Worlds
There’s no denying that sometimes you do need a developer to be involved in the content creation process. Maybe your industry is super niche and the writers will need all the help they can get to understand how your product works.
Luckily for you, there are tools that allow you to have your cake and eat it too. With a single documentation platform like ClickHelp, you can combine the power of professional technical writers and developers.
Give it a try!