Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Can Technical Writers stay relevant in a Mobile-First world?


Leading Internet analysts now recommend adopting a Mobile-First development policy. Responsive Design (RD) is the principle that enables Web-based applications to deliver a meaningful user experience to any screen size. RD has made significant inroads into B2C (customer-facing) Internet content, and many content writers are creating effective interactions. But with business applications going mobile, the fundamentals of technical writing are changing. Are we as technical writers and information developers preparing for these changes? Or, a better question: Are we leading them?

Some points to consider:
  • Mobile business applications are not brochure ware, or even e-commerce. Look up “B2B mobile” and that’s all you’ll find. Are there other search terms I should be using?
  • Mobile-First forces clients to make the kind of prioritizing decisions they often find difficult. Will clearer priorities result in better content overall, not just in the mobile space?
  •  As the applications we’ve documented in the past migrate to mobile devices, there’s no longer room on the screen for the kind of side-by-side help and instructional content we used to create. When a user gets stuck in a mobile application, how do they get unstuck?
  • Will the video tutorial replace the help page? What if the signal is too poor for video? (I’ve run into that problem already, with an iPhone 3GS.) Do you swap in an audio narrative with still images? Do you pop up an error message with a nicer-worded  version of “Sorry, sucker”? Or, as I’ve encountered, do you just let the technology take over, locking the image and ending the module without warning?

What do you think? 
Are any technical writers you know creating technical content with Mobile First in mind
Are you infiltrating the Mobile First scrums and asking the right questions?

1 comment:

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