Hardware Technical Writer
You're looking for a hardware technical writer to create documentation for your products? Someone who knows how to write in a user-friendly style that's easy to read and translate? You're in the right place.
As a long-term technical writer (20 years and counting), I've written technical content for a variety of products (see my profile page for details on my background). Some of the products I have documented are time synchronisation devices that attach to professional video cameras and sound recording equipment; electronic devices for automatic fan control, door control, and other Internet of Things (IoT) type automation; TENS muscle stimulation devices designed to strengthen the pelvic floor (mainly for women after pregnancy, people with incontinence and prolapses). That's quite an odd mix, isn't it?
With each hardware project, there has been existing documentation already in place, but it has failed to reduce customer support requests. There are several reasons for this, but in most cases, it boils down to:
- The content is pitched at the wrong level for the audience (usually, it is too technical)
- The language is jargon-heavy
- There's too much focus on 'what' and 'how to' and not enough explanation of the key concepts (the 'why' and 'when')
- It only explains what to do when things go right, and doesn't provide enough troubleshooting
- The style is too dry and boring, making it difficult to read
- There's not enough relevant examples.
These are all problems I can fix (or avoid, if I am going to be writing your hardware manuals from scratch).
On this page, I'm going to provide some advice on hardware manuals, but if you're ready to get your project started already, please get in touch. If I am available, I could be your hardware technical writer in a matter of hours.
Click the button below to get in touch.
To learn more about my approach to writing hardware manuals, see:
There are some common problems that I come across with instruction manuals, particularly those for physical products. These problems usually come about because the writers are ex-engineers, and are taking an engineer's view of the documentation, when it needs to be written from the perspective of a customer. This issue isn't limited to hardware engineers though, I encounter the exact same problem in software too. People who build products think about them differently to the people that actually use them.
As a hardware technical writer, what do I think a good, user-friendly hardware manual needs to have?
- A topic-based approach. People don't read manuals in order, from cover to cover. A topic-based approach allows people to dive straight in to a section and still make sense of it, even though they haven't read 'earlier' sections.
- Appropriate language. For the most part, this means clear sentences, simple phrasing, and making sure there is a logical flow through the information. Some might say it should mean no jargon, but that's not always the case. In some industries, the jargon is commonplace and using alternative terms leads to confusion.
- Ease of use. People need to be able to find the information they need, quickly and easily. Your topics need to be presented in a sensible order, and in larger manuals, indexing will help people too.
- Relevant examples. Stories work well as learning tools, so explaining concepts with realistic examples can help readers understand more quickly.
- Cross-references. Instead of expecting readers to have read everything in a particular order, your manual should use cross-references to guide them to related information.
- Clear and useful images. Sometimes, information is much easier to understand as a graphic. Plus, pages of uninterrupted text can make your manual look daunting, and put people off using it.
- Clearly visible notes, warnings, and cautions. If there are safety issues or just helpful tips that readers need to know, they have to stand out and use industry-standard colours and icons.
- Regulatory Information.. Some industries have regulations and certain information has to be included in the instructions. For example, there are declarations that need to be included for products that use radio communications. Most of my clients are already aware of this, and it is just a case of adding the information. But if you don't know what you need, I can help you to find out.
If you hire me to write the documentation for your products, I will aim to apply all of these principles to your content. This will help to make sure your manuals serve their purpose and help your customers to understand your products so that they are placing less demand on your technical support.
Ready to get started? Click the button below to get in touch. Tell me about your project and your timescales and I'll get back to you a.s.a.p.
If you are selling your product internationally, you need to consider translating your content. In some countries, it is a legal requirement to provide instructions in the first language of that country, so you can't just produce manuals in English and hope for the best. And don't rely on online translation services either - their results are patchy at best, and could result in confusing and ambiguous instructions.
Did you know that your choice of writer could also affect your translation costs? There are certain words and phrases that don't translate easily, and contractions like "can't" and "won't" can also cause problems. Back when I worked for a multi-national company, there was a whole checklist of 'use' and 'do not use' terms, and most of these have become a habit of mine now, so my technical writing tends to veer away from them naturally. Not my writing on here, though - this is far more chatty and informal.
If you don't have translators in place, I know a couple of companies that offer translation services, and I have contacts in different countries that may be able to help too.
With modern technical writing tools like Paligo and MadCap Flare, it's easy to create PDFs and HTML5 from the same set of content files. So you can have content designed for print and a stylish online help system, without the need for anything to be written twice. All that's needed is a little extra formatting for each of the outputs.
Why would you want online help when a PDF can be presented online? Because PDF files can be large and take a long time to download and the formatting can be displayed differently on different devices. HTML5 online help gives a smoother, faster user experience, especially on smartphones, as it is made up of a collection of files, not a single file.
Whether you want PDFs, HTML5, or a combination of both, just get in touch. Let me know about your product and your timescales, and we can take it from there.