Day in, day out
I work in the field of Technical Communications (which is full of poppies and grazing sheep… sorry…). Essentially, whilst I am a ‘team lead/manager’, I am mainly a technical author by trade.
So what is a technical author? Basically it is someone who writes manuals. But, as with every other job, there is a lot more to it than that. Our job loosely includes information design, graphic design, indexing and editing skills, the ability to write accurate, unambiguous and technically valid information (usually from a description of how something will function rather than from a completed component), the ability to understand our audience, what information they want, how they want it presented, and how we can best tailor our output to their needs. We need to be technically competent to the same level as our users, need to be able to talk to developers, consultants, SMEs, product managers, technical support and testing/QA staff. We need to be able to take information from a variety of information sources and levels and distill it into one consistent, readable, usable document (or two). Ohh and we have to deal with translation issues, print shop demands and are typically asked for input to sales and marketing documents, corporate intranet and websites etc etc.
Most technical authors tend to favour one area of work to another, my personal preference is in the early planning and design phases, and I don’t enjoy the writing phase. Other authors prefer the writing phase but may be less technically minded than others who, in turn, prefer the interaction and collation of information and the filtering and learning process that must be passed through. We are a strange bunch, by all accounts, akin (possibly) to the goalkeeper of a football (soccer) team. Our mistakes are obvious, our part of the product typically goes untested, and frequently is only validated internally rather than externally by the people the document is aimed at…
Hmmmm, this wasn’t supposed to turn into an essay.
As I said, I prefer the information design stage of a project and have been delightedly working my way through this list for a while now, picking up books when I can. I spotted a link to it on another site yesterday which reminded me that I’ve not bought a work related book for an age. The reading list takes the view that information design (experience design) is not a sole art, but knowledge can be gathered from a wide variety of sources and used across all the mediums covered.
Experience Design Reading “The following books cover many disciplines, from Interaction and Visual Design to Filmmaking to Architecture, but all relate loosely to the various processes, ideologies, visions and practicalities of Experience Design.”