I Need a Software Technical Writer, Can you Help?

Software Technical Writer

Yes, I am a software technical writer and I can create the documentation you need for your project. Online help, wiki pages, user manuals, PDFs, I can create whatever you need.

As an experienced software technical writer (17 years and counting), I create documentation that helps your customers to truly learn about your product or service. Excellent software documentation isn’t just ‘how to’ steps for each feature, and it certainly isn’t a list of settings and a brief one-liner about what they do. No, the content I create for you will be:

  • Topic based, for re-use
  • Task orientated
  • Written from the customer’s point of view, not the software teams’ perspective
  • Detailed and accurate
  • Designed to teach customers not only ‘what’ and ‘how’ but ‘why’ and ‘when’ too
  • Easy to understand, using terms they understand
  • Non-linear – few people read documentation in any particular order.

I can work with a variety of technical writing tools, including Atlassian Confluence, MS Word, and MadCap Flare (I am a certified advanced MadCap Flare user), so can create just about any form of documentation your software needs.

Ah, But Have You Worked as a Software Technical Writer in an Agile Environment?

Yes…sort of. I added that ‘sort of’ because I’ve yet to see a team that follows the ‘textbook’ agile process. In the teams I have worked in, the development process has always been a version of agile, tailored to the particular way that team works. Personally, I find agile to be a little too condensed for documentation, as I can be working on the same things for days or months in some cases, but for the most part, it fits okay. I certainly have no problem coping with the regular ‘stand ups’, review processes, and day-to-day moving of goalposts. That’s how working as  a software technical writer has always been for me, long before I’d ever heard of agile.

Have you Worked as a Software as a Service (SaaS) Technical Writer?

Yes I have. I created a wiki-style online help for 4Energy’s SMARTset software solution, which is a SCADA-style monitoring and control service package. Entirely cloud-based, the software allows users to monitor and control sensors and actuators used in the cooling industry, predominantly in data centres.

But why do you ask? From a technical writer’s perspective, which is pretty much the customer’s perspective, there is precious little difference between an installed product and a SaaS product. It’s just software delivered via different means. The documentation process for both is pretty much the same.

Why Do I Need a Technical Writer when I Have Great UX Design?

It’s true that there are software products out there that are almost self-documenting. The interfaces are so intuitive or carefully labelled that there is little need for documentation. But this is usually only the case with very simple applications. The reason for that is that being a good software technical writer goes far beyond ‘documenting the user interface’. In fact, the descriptions and step-by-step procedures are a very small part of what I do. The descriptions and tasks only tell customers ‘how’, the real work comes in the conceptual information, where I explain ‘why’ and ‘when’.

The biggest criticism I have of a lot of software documentation is that it only tells you how to do something. It doesn’t explain why or when you might want to do it. This is really important, because it limits the learning of your customers. Teach them how to achieve a task, and they will be able to follow the steps, no problem. But will they understand the bigger picture? Will they know when it is appropriate to perform those steps, what the knock-on effects might be, what other actions can affect the process, etc? If you explain to customers ‘why’ and ‘when’ as well as ‘how’ you give them a far greater understanding of your product, and they have a much greater chance of remembering that information. And ultimately, that’s the goal, isn’t it? To make your customers experts in your product. Can UX design do all that?

This discussion came up on the ISTC forum in 2015, and one member said his organisation had actually scaled back UX staff and hired more software technical writers. Why? Because many of us understand, and can contribute towards good UX design, and we can also do much more – like explain the complex stuff, provide the conceptual information, etc.

Many of us technical writers have more than one string to our bow.

I Need a Software Technical Writer with DITA Experience

Hmm…I’m reluctant to say I’m experienced with DITA. I have taken a training course in DITA and know the principles and how to create DITA content, but I wouldn’t say I’m experienced. Could I get up to speed very quickly? On the DITA content creation side of things, yes, because most of it is in my head somewhere, just cast aside through lack of use. The XML transformations and XPath stuff I would have to go back and look into in more detail, so it depends on how much you need from your technical authors.

Why Should I Hire You as My Software Technical Writer?

Because I’m good! I have experience in small and international companies, a degree in technical communication, and I’m affordable. I’m also pretty laid back, but very passionate about the quality of my work. I come in and get the job done, without disrupting your team. What more do you need?

Next question. :)

Ready to hire me? Of course you are. So let’s get started – please get in touch via the contact page and let me know what your project needs.