In the ever-evolving world of technical writing, the quote by author William H. Gass rings true: “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.” The perception of technical writers (TWs) as creators of confusing computer software manuals is outdated. Modern TWs are navigating new challenges, embracing emerging trends, and transforming the way information is conveyed to individuals. In this blog post, we delve into the latest trends in technical writing that will shape the industry in 2024 and beyond.
In response to the ever-increasing flood of information, the demand for bite-sized content is on the rise. Microlearning, a trend highlighted in our recent post for aspiring instructional designers, emphasizes the growing need to deliver information in small, frequent chunks, usually under 10 minutes. In our current “attention economy,” TWs compete with the constant noise of information for users’ attention, emphasizing the importance of keeping content focused on the essentials. Today’s TWs must avoid overwhelming users, stay mindful of their learning objectives, and ensure content is relevant and engaging.
Visuals Are Key
Visual content has always been powerful, and its significance is only growing. Forbes reports that 91 percent of consumers prefer interactive and visual information over traditional text-based content. Infographics, interactive images, videos, and augmented reality (AR) are becoming essential tools for TWs to capture and maintain user attention. The future of TW favors those who can combine words, images, videos, and interactive graphics into a compelling narrative.
Voice Search Supported Content
The rise of voice-activated technologies such as Siri and Alexa has fundamentally shifted the way users seek information and, in the case of smart homes, even how they manage other parts of their lives. To ensure their content continues to reach its target audience, TWs must adapt their approach. Optimizing online content for voice searches, FAQs, and voice-friendly meta tags enhances visibility. As #ARMWorldwide says, “The content of the future isn’t just meant to be read, it’s meant to be heard.”
“People will only want to engage if it is relevant to their needs or helps them solve problems,” says Jane Hart, former Director of Modern Workplace Learning. Personalization, adopted by industry giants like Amazon and Netflix, has found its way into technical writing. User-centered design principles extend beyond written content to encompass colors, fonts, spacing, and other user interface (UI) elements. Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a crucial role in tailoring content to specific users’ needs, making documents more readable and understandable. Personalization is a strategic method of creating more engaging technical content. It extends to design elements, making user experience and usability key considerations in technical content creation. As part of the trend toward personalized content, TWs are embracing a data-driven approach to understand user behavior, usage patterns, and documentation performance. Search engine optimization (SEO) tools, user feedback, and collaborative efforts among various teams ensure comprehensive and effective user and developer documentation.
Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Generative AI
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Grammarly are becoming indispensable for TWs. These tools streamline drafting, editing, formatting, and consistency checks, freeing up time for more creative aspects of the job. Looking ahead, AI could automate repetitive tasks, simplifying the TW process and allowing for more focus on creativity. AR and VR are also making inroads into technical writing, providing immersive and interactive experiences for users. Imagine using a VR headset to walk through a virtual electronics store, seeing instructions for each device as you focus on it, like an immersive game. Or, using a handheld device that shows you step-by-step instructions as you hover over an item, similar to the characters in Pokémon Go. We are likely to see more integration of AR and VR soon; according to PwC, “VR and AR have the potential to add $1.5 trillion to the global economy by 2030.”
Organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of automation tools in technical writing. These tools detect broken links, generate reports, and ensure proper alignment of media components, resulting in a more efficient workflow. Automation enables content creators to focus on the more creative aspects of their solution so they can produce engaging content more rapidly. As former Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield put it, “There’s a lot of automation that can happen that isn’t a replacement of humans but of mind-numbing behavior.” Video content, essential for user engagement, benefits greatly from automation tools. However, video is not an asset for every message, on every platform, so automation that expands creator efforts can make a significant impact on the message.
As technology continues to evolve, the demand for skilled TWs is on the rise. The ability to make complex subject matter understandable, translate jargon into user-friendly terms, and bridge the gap between SMEs and end-users is more crucial than ever. The Internet of Things (IoT) and big data present new challenges and possibilities for TWs. In this dynamic field, staying ahead of trends and continually adapting to innovative technologies will be the key to success. The alchemy of technical writing persists, transforming the world into words.
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