Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead

Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead

June 12th 2013 was marked by AdobeDay 2013. Colum McAndrew has provided a wonderful overview over the main presentations off the day on his blog. As Colum noted, the panel discussion started late, so there was too little time for a thorough discussion.

In this post I will work out the points I want to expand on my views of the challenges and opportunities in the decades ahead. My main points are:

  • The distinction between Help and knowledge bases will fade.
  • Help will only be for complex tasks.
  • We will need to change our role.
  • We will have more influence on software applications, especially for consumer software.
  • We will have better contact with our users.

These points all revolve around one thing: Technical writing as we know it will not only change. It will largely disappear. (At least for consumer goods and software.)

Don’t get me wrong: technical communicators will always exist. But the role we have now will completely change. We are now finally at the point where humans no longer have to adapt to technology. Smartphones and tablets show us that we can now make technology adapt to us. For example: touch screens on smartphones are a natural way to navigate through the functions of a phone. And this lights the way for other solutions as well. Technology will adopt to our lives to make our lives easier.

The keywords are User Experience Design (UXD) and Service Design. These design principles focus on a holistic approach: solutions that not only provide a single solutions for a problem, but a solution embedded within the specific context of the user. This has a huge impact on design and user research. Solutions will be tailored to suit the needs of users, embedded within their context.

Solutions such as apps are catered to be intuitive for the audience. So the capabilities of apps and the way to use those capabilities will be obvious to users. That means less documentation is needed. Also, mobile devices do not support multiple windows very well. If you create help contents for an app, the user will have to leave the app in order to read the help (or at the very least will need to leave the current function). This is not very user friendly. And even then, a user is much more likely to just type the search query on Google or YouTube instead of going through your help.

Our field is changing in another way as well: Google and YouTube are taking over the role of help and knowledge bases. If you create consumer electronics or software, Google and YouTube are the first point of entry for your users. And do they find your content when using those services? Probably not.

So what does this mean for us? We have to rethink the way in which we create and share content. Follow this space as I will work out my points in more detail in the next couple of days.

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