Messaging and Collaboration: Technical Communication: 10 Top Trends Enterprises Need to Know
Structured Documents Are the Norm
These documents use some method of embedded coding or markup to provide structural meaning according to agreed upon organizational structures or schemas. They provide benefits such as content reuse or single sourcing. Global enterprises, for example, use structured documents to reduce the costs associated with producing documents in multiple languages.
For many people in product development, production and marketing, how-to manuals, online Help and WebHelp are out of sight and out of mind. The folks in technical communications always worried about all that. Documentation was authored by content creators who were traditionally called technical writers. However, two key developments in the last few years have had a major impact on how customers expect to receive technical instructions for products: social networking and mobile devices. Information is more portable than ever and consumers are accustomed to either creating part of the content they deal with or at least commenting on it and rating it. The proliferation of small, affordable tablets and widescreen smartphones has also vastly increased the platforms to which companies must deliver "tech comm" content. Rich media graphics, 3D diagrams and video are becoming essential ingredients, and sometimes replace the traditional numbered "step lists" that used to walk customers through a process. These visual tools enable consumers molded by social networking to find answers more quickly. Cleverly created screen simulations, video or interactive rich media graphics often capture higher "ratings" from existing and potential users, driving up sales. Because of social networking and the ease with which customers can rate or comment on products through smartphones and other portable devices, the accessibility of product "help" can be a huge sales factor. Ease of use and "findability" for key technical information about a product can become a key ingredient in a customer's decision to either buy a product, or continue loyalty to a brand. What used to be labeled "technical communications" is becoming a critical and strategic part of the product mix. Here, eWEEK takes a look at what enterprises can expect in the coming months and years for tech comm.