Is the Future of Technical Writing in API Docs?
Over on his I’d Rather Be Writing blog, Tom Johnson recently published a post titled, “The Future of Tech Comm is Developer Doc“. Johnson has a point in that yes, it’s true that the latest mantra is pretty much “If an end user needs documentation, your app/program/whatever is not user friendly.” Okay, we guess. After all, end users aren’t know to even bother looking at documentation – they’d rather go through trial and error, pull their hair out and then get help through tech support or by consulting with another user.
But technical writers who can write developer docs have been in greater demand and have commanded better hourly rates and annual salaries for years. That’s because it’s harder to find experienced technical communicators who are actually comfortable with developer documentation or who have sufficient understanding of programming languages to communicate effectively with a developer audience.
That’s probably why developers are often called upon &emdash; or make the conscious decision &emdash; to write the docs themselves, which is certainly not an ideal situation. Don’t believe me? See Why Developers Write Horrible Documentation.
So does the future for technical communications professionals lie in developer docs? Well, you could probably make an argument that Johnson is a bit biased since he admits most of his work is in the SDK and API areas. You could also make the case that he has a first-hand point of view on the topic. But we think technical communicators who can effectively document APIs to a developer audience have always been in greater demand, so there’s nothing really new. Or is there?What are your thoughts on the future of technical communications? Is it time for technical writers to grab the bull by the horns and learn how to write developer documentation? Please leave a comment, we’d love to hear your views.