Technical writing is the practice of educating users on how to use a software product. It involves creating clear, concise documentation instructing users on how they can use a software product and updating them as and when new features are released.
Remember the series of steps that helped you reset the password for your email account? Or a walkthrough video on YouTube that helped you recover your PC when you badly needed to access a critical document, or the manual that helped you set up your new washing machine?They’re all different forms of Technical Documentation.
What does a Technical Writer do every day?
Technical writers perform a variety of tasks as part of their role. This includes creating and updating user guides, writing FAQs, working with the product team, recording and editing product tutorial videos, creating API documentation, and coming up with product copy (error messages you see inside a software product, the text you see on a button, etc.)
Qualities of a Technical Writer
These qualities are critical for anyone looking to make a career in technical writing irrespective of the company or product.
Good Writing Skills
Technical writers should be able to write in simple language. Not all the customers who visit the website are well-versed in English, so one needs to remember that the copy is consumed across the globe and everyone who reads it should be able to perform the same intended action in the product.
A Curious Mind
Technical writers should be curious about the features they’re working on. Just like Product Managers and several other customer-facing roles in the SaaS world, technical writers are in the unique position to act as a bridge between the customer and the company. Technical writers often put themselves in the shoes of their end-users and hence it is important that they start by asking the right questions,
- Why are we building this feature?
- Who are we building this for?
- What will the user accomplish with this feature?
- Why kind of hiccups will the user run into while using this feature and why?
- Is there a better way to do this or are there workarounds?
This quality will help you prepare content for your users without bias or assumptions. Along the way, it will have a second-order impact in improving the product as you can give first-hand feedback to your product teams.
Technical writers constantly work with design, engineering, and customer-facing teams and hence they should know how to be part of a team. This involves a good amount of diplomacy and people skills. It is not easy at the beginning, but once you get a hang of working with other teams, you will understand the pulse and work accordingly.
Love for Technology
As a technical writer, you should have a knack for cracking open the product and figuring out how products work - be it a SaaS product, a mobile app, or a website and think through whether the text clearly conveys the right message or confuses the person reading it. If it’s the latter, think through how you would improve the message to tell someone how that product or feature works.
Common Sense serves humans well in pretty much any real-world scenario. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t always come into play when you’re at work solving complex problems. Technical writers need to have their antennas up to use their common sense to perform their tasks without prejudice. An example - we often assume our users will get our product just because we understand it. So you skim through the screenshots and substitute them with long-winded text that only ends up causing more confusion.
What is the difference between Technical Writing and UX Writing?
Earlier in this blog, we mentioned that writing product copy is the responsibility of a technical writer. But, a lot of companies today hire a dedicated person to do this job. They're called the UX writers. They're responsible for all the copy that goes inside a product. UX writers work with the product and UX teams on a daily basis. UX writing is a highly focused job function as it involves coming up with copy that is unbiased and appeals to people across the globe.
What are the career prospects for a Technical Writer?
Similar to Pre-sales, Technical writing is a great option for anyone who is looking to step into the world of SaaS. The skills you learn as a technical writer will help you pivot into multiple career options within the SaaS space including product marketing, pre-sales, technical program management, and even product management.
The starting salary of a technical writer in the SaaS space is approximately 4.5 lakh per annumand experienced technical writers (with 2-3 years of experience) can make 8-10 lakhs per annum.
Want to know more about Technical Writing? At NextStop we've built a three-day technical writing course (taught on Sundays) to help you learn the necessary skills to become a technical writer. You can sign up for the course from here: nextstophq.com/technical-writing