10 Efficient Tools to Overcome Major Challenges in Technical Communication

A career in the technical communication is a job by choice, not by chance. A person should have a clear understanding what it entails to be a technical writer before embarking on this journey. Whether you are a professional or a newbie in the field, you will find this article rather insightful, since it sheds new light on the quite familiar topic.

Top Pitfalls in Technical Writing

A technical writer is becoming a highly sought after profession in the IT industry. Lindsey Robbins, a technical writer at Blackbaud, states that technical communication (also referred to as technical writing) is the conversation between the user and the technical writer. In other words, the technical writer must anticipate the questions a user would ask about the software. Technical writers serve the role of mediators between the developers and the end-users. Their main task is to create effective technical documentation to add value to the product and hence to the organization itself. The point is that technical writers should help the readers understand the text and not present any challenges to understanding.

Let’s dwell upon top challenges technical writers encounter on a daily basis and discuss how we can address them:

Difficult SME

Have you ever asked yourself how it is possible to write technical documentation for the products which you may or may not be familiar with? Technical writers usually approach the subject matter experts (SMEs) in order to gather the raw material for the documentation. What would you do if the SMEs are not approachable? One solution is to test the product on your own but it takes a lot of time. It’s true that people sometimes can be intolerable. We are all human beings, things happen. Technical writers should be persistent and so to say ‘torture’ experts with the questions. One great psychological hack is just to break the ice. Try to find some common interests, a nice topic to speak about. Be it a recent baseball game or a favourite book, somehow, you will definitely find the opportunity to ask for help or assistance. Believe, you will never get a refusal in such case.

Documentation management

Managing documents has always posed a huge challenge in business. As part of their job, technical writers deal with tens of thousands of various documents. Thus, they often need to refer to some powerful document management systems in order to optimize their workflow and save time.

Here we point out the key benefits of DMS:

  • reduced storage space;
  • better security;
  • convenient retrieval;
  • better backup;
  • facilitated collaboration.

Time management

It is worth admitting that a typical working day of the average technical writer is jam-packed. Some of you may argue that such job is the exceptional boredom, because it presupposes just the passive act of typing the technical content. We would state that this is not the case. Technical writing is also about communicating with people, meeting deadlines and managing several projects at a time. In order to manage your time and use it more efficiently, try out some great software tools. The next chapter discusses them in more details.

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

Great tools to deal with top technical writer challenges

Technical writers don’t need to be computer nerds and know how to do computer programming. Nevertheless, they have to be tech-savvy, meaning that software tools should not present any problems for them. Here is the list of the best software for technical writers.

  • Confluence

Atlassian Confluence is considered to be the most powerful document management system that allows to manage the lifecycle of your technical documentation. This includes creating, drafting, reviewing, publishing and storing of the documents. In other words, it is a team collaboration software that is aimed to store company’s knowledge.

  • Trello & Jira

To be more productive and manage time more efficiently, we suggest using some powerful project management tools such as Jira or Trello. Trello is a free web-based project management application. It is mostly designed for small businesses in order to help people manage their workflow and organize their projects into boards. Jira provides not only project management functions but also bug and issue tracking. It is a commercial product, developed by Atlassian.

  • Adobe FrameMaker

In a nutshell, Adobe FrameMaker is a great tool which provides the capability to author, edit, and publish complex multilingual technical content across mobile, web, desktop, and print platforms. It allows to work faster and smarter with advanced XML/DITA capabilities and publish content as responsive HTML5, Mobile App, PDF and EPUB. FrameMaker remains one of the best software for technical writers on the market today.

  • Ezvid & Stepshot

Good writing doesn’t happen overnight. It requires planning, drafting, rereading, revising and editing. Besides, technical writers are to provide the readers with the valuable visual info in order to facilitate their understanding. Very often short videos, graphics and images work much better than just a set of technical terms. High-quality visual content can add the real value to your piece of writing.

Ezvid is a free video editing and screen recorder software that is quite easy to use. With one click, you can record your screen and capture whatever appears on your computer. You can edit these videos, make speed changes, re-arrange, add text and image slides, spending on it minutes instead of hours.

StepShot may come in handy as a great step-by-step documentation tool in creating technical documentation, IT instructions, user support manuals, runbooks and reference guides. It captures screenshots for every click and provides automate descriptions for each of them. You can also edit the screenshots and add own comments to them.

  • RoboHelp & MadCap Flare

RoboHelp & MadCap Flare are among the most popular help authoring tools. They are used by technical writers to create the help systems that are packaged with software products, delivered through web browsers or provided as files users can view on their computers.

  • Adobe Illustrator & Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign helps technical writers develop things like posters, flyers, magazines, brochures, newspaper and book layouts. Functioning as a desktop publisher, InDesign works great for developing graphics and text together. Adobe Illustrator is a tool for creating and editing vector based illustrations such as logos and brand marks as well as other design elements. Whatever you create in Illustrator is scalable to the infinite power.

If you have any questions regarding the documentation creation with StepShot, please do not hesitate to write us at contact@stepshot.net.