Software developers are not Shakespeares: Why you need a technical content writer.

You’ve spent the last 6 months developing your tech solution. The execution was flawless, the functionality – robust and comprehensive, the interface – a true work of art. You are excited to finally launch it onto the market… but then it hits you. You also need to create the user manuals and troubleshooting guides, describing  the features of your tech masterpiece and instructing the users on how to make the best use of its functionality – navigating the interface, configuring settings, and troubleshooting problems. 

Without much thought, you entask your developers with creating the documentation. After all, who could be better suited to the task if not the very people who designed it – your software developers. But come the submission date and you are appalled by the results. There is page after page of blabbering inundated with technical jargon that is dry and uninspiring, with some parts sounding like a legit foreign language.

You knew that your developers weren’t Shakespeares, but you didn’t expect such a snoozer. At the same time, you were also wary of entasking the documentation write-up to professional writers, which is understandable – writers may be ‘Shakespeares’ but they are not developers. That is an age old dilemma. 

Why most developers suck writing.

Software developers are very talented and intelligent people with unrivaled problem-solving, system-design, and abstract thinking abilities. In some sense of the word, developers are also creatives, but it is the abstract creativity that is the hallmark of the software development skill set.

When it comes to creative verbal expression, developers are not Shakespeares. And even though they may understand all the ins and outs of your technical product, they are not the perfect people to describe it to your end-user audience. For that, it is better to work with technical writers. Here is why:

They know how to distill complex concepts into simple language.

Albert Einstein once said that if you can’t explain something simply, then you don’t understand it well enough. This comes from the guy who encapsulated the equivalence of mass and energy in the whole universe into the simplest yet elegant 3-digit formula ‘e=mc²’.

Technical writers might not be Einsteins but they share his unequivocal ability to distill complex ideas into elegant and parsimonious language. They can take your developers’ 20-page blabbering and turn it into a snappy and easy-to-process document that can actually be read and understood by the layman audience.

They can save you money in the long-run.

Many tech start-ups run on lean, budget-tight operations, tracking every dollar they spend and doing things themselves whenever possible. Hiring a professional writer to develop their end-user documentation is often seen as an unnecessary splurge. So, they decide to entask the endeavor to their existing workforce – their developers.

But here is the problem. If your technical documentation is unclear and difficult to understand, ridden with grammar and syntax errors, or simply too cognitively strenuous to process, it is going to cost you business and money in the long run. Think about it. If your end-users struggle to navigate their way around your interface, for example, you will have to channel your time and energy into answering customer service questions and having your staff inundated with the unending stream of support tickets. Not fun. 

They speak the language of your target customer.

Imagine if Apple marketed its iPod as ‘1GB or MP3 storage’. You would probably dismiss it as another unnecessary gadget and spend your money elsewhere. But a product offering ‘1000 songs in your pocket’ sounds right up your alley, doesn’t it?

The problem with entasking your developers with creating your documentation is that they are great at developing them (heck, that’s why they are developers!), but not-so-great at communicating their end-user benefits.

Your product might have the most cutting-edge functionality, but your customers are interested in just one thing: how can it make their life better, simpler, and easier? A technical writer can help you communicate that not only coherently but also competently and compellingly!

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