- Growth of Application Programme Interface (API) Documentation
The growth of APIs has seen a corresponding growth in the need for API documentation and interactive document environments. Ellis Pratt, Director of Cherryleaf (a specialist technical communication company), and judge on the panel of the ISTCs UK Technical Communication Awards (UKTCA), says “Without the documentation, its virtually impossible to use an API, as developers need to know what resources are available, where they are, and what parameters they will accept.
- Increase in Use of Agile Methodologies
Agile methodologies are a set of principles for software development in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organising, cross-functional teams. Alison Peck, Director of Clearly Stated Ltd (a technical writing and training company), judge on the UKTCA panel and current President of the ISTC, says The biggest impacts on [technical communicators] are in the working practices and products of our customer base. For example, there is a steady increase in the percentage of software development teams adopting agile methodologies, which affects technical communicators specifically working in the documentation of software.
- Increased Use of Mobile Technology
Alison goes on to say the increased use of mobile technology has made changes to our work, as has the (general) improvement to user interface design. Rather than having to give detailed instructions, Im more likely to explain the outcome of an action or give guidance on when it should be done. People using products and services also expect them to be more tailored to their requirements, so being able to create supporting products (help, tutorials, guidance) that can be tailored to those same requirements is becoming more important. A one-size-fits-all approach is much less acceptable now than it was a few years ago.
- Move towards a less formal tone
Ellis states As technology becomes more part of our daily lives, we’ve seen a move towards a less formal tone in some types of documentation. This is a consequence of documentation being part of the pre-sales process, and users are generally less scared of technology than they used to be.
- Embedding User Assistance
Ellis adds We’re also seeing a move toward embedding user assistance into the application itself, without the need to go to the docs. We’ll be seeing more developments with Conversational User Interfaces, on-boarding screens and micro-content. This is a consequence of users being reluctant to admit they’re stuck and going to the Help.
- Navigating via Search
Ellis has also spotted a trend within the ISTCs annual UK Technical Communication Awards entries: The awards entries have reflected the trend towards navigating via Search, rather than via hyperlinks. I’ve also noticed a move towards content in Responsive Web format, which can be viewed on mobile phones, tablets and laptops.