4 Resolutions to Improve Your Tech Writing in 2019
Hi there, my name is Matt. I'm a technical writer and story teller at K15t. I love painting solutions with words and connecting people with the resources they need to be successful.
With a new year approaching and having recently joined the K15t team, I wanted to share some of my resolutions for continued growth in work and in life. Take a look through and borrow any thoughts you find useful:
I'm going to work better alongside my team by:
- Breaking out of my solitary writing mindset and getting others involved. I like working with people and I like writing. Mixing the two can be difficult for me. I want to be better at writing incrementally, and bringing in more diverse feedback sooner in the creative process.
- Developing a feedback mindset. Even if feedback stings, I'm going to take it with a "thank you" and internalize the intended truth.
- Asking higher quality questions. Speaking of stinging feedback: a friend and coworker recently shared with me that I ask too many questions, and in the wrong settings. Upon reflection, I can see how I've used questions as a way of controlling teammates or to make others look bad. Ouch! This year, I'm going to target my questions to the right people at the right time and look to encourage and build up my team.
- Reaching out to people I don't know well. I'm new at K15t, and even though I've had a stellar welcome from the team, I don't know people very well. As a remote employee, there are challenges with isolation and relationship building so I need to be more purposeful. I'm going to recommend we try out what Trello calls "Mr. Rogers." These are short weekly meetings with a few random team members. The purpose is to get to know each other and share a bit of life. I'm looking forward to learning more about my diverse team.
Be More Creative
I'm going to make something new by:
- Writing the way people talk, not the way robots talk. This may sound obvious, but it's a challenge for me. When I'm describing a complex solution, sometimes the easiest way to do it is to use complex language. This is not what users are really looking for. They're looking for a relatable solution, one that makes sense to anyone without the need for background knowledge or special vocabulary. Time to write like I'm talking directly with the user.
- Animating graphics to make it easier to understand a solution. I've always wanted to animate something. I'm not talking Buzz Lightyear quality animation, more like motion graphics and beyond. Sometimes a small bit of movement makes all the difference. It can transform a large process diagram into a quickly glanceable illustration.
- Making explainer videos. I want to find those areas where users would benefit from lifting the words and images off the page and communicating them through video. A trick here is putting together a toolkit for making videos with a template dictating the format, intro, outro, etc. The first video always takes the most time to produce, but after the first few, I think I can make high quality videos quickly.
Get Involved Earlier
I'm going to build a great experience, not document around a bad one, by:
Understanding the design process and contributing early. I'm not a designer, but as a user advocate, I feel the pain of a design that hasn't been fully thought through. Rather than using documentation as a bandage over a bad experience, I want to work with product owners and designers to make sure the solution works well before we start building. Whether we're building something new, or we're improving the product through sparring sessions, I'll especially focus on UI text to make sure we're aligned on how we talk about things.
- Submitting tickets to improve bad experiences and champion change. I can't be the only one who has come across a rough edge on a product and wanted to just move past and keep writing. Right? Well, no more! If I'm finding areas for improvement, so are the users. Time to make things better.
- Creating user personas so the team understands the problems we're trying to solve. As old Bill Shakespeare said: "to thine own users be true." Something like that, anyway. After watching how Atlassian makes user personas and how much focus they put on them, I feel like this is the perfect opportunity for me and my team to become better user advocates. I'd like anyone who joins the team to be able to design, write, code, and test for our users.
I'm going impact the community by:
- Speaking at an event. This one is scary for me; I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it. There are topics I know a lot about and want to share. There are others I know little about but want to become an expert and share. Speaking is a great way to do this. I'm going to start by keeping track of calls for speakers and submitting my ideas. First up, Atlassian Summit. 🤞🏻
- Attending a user group and connecting with my peers. I've just realized there are two Atlassian user groups in Toronto and New York City—2 and 8 hour train trips from me respectively. I'm going to try and attend at least one faithfully to get to know how teams are working together in my area. To connect with other tech writers throughout the week, I'll continue to hang out in the Write the Docs Slack channel for Confluence users. I've learned so much and connected with many bright and creative writers here. I highly recommend it. Shout out to the awesome folks in the Confluence channel. Y'all rock.
- Learning a new language. With K15t based in Stuttgart Germany, I've become interested in learning German myself. Though we work primarily in English, I'd like to be able to speak with my coworkers in their primary language. There are many languages spoken amongst this beautifully diverse group, but I'm going to start with just one. 😁
- Volunteering. At K15t, we're given a few days each year to help our community. There are a few different opportunities that come to mind for me: serving at the homeless shelter in my county and giving blood. The first because I have friends affected by homelessness and the second because I have had family members battle sicknesses that required a lot of blood transfusions. Giving feeds the souls of many, including my own. I'm going to be thoughtful about where I spend my time to make the biggest impact.
So that's my plan, map, and hypothesis for this year. I hope it inspires you to even greater things this year. As a user—and reader of many manuals—thank you for what you do so well.
Here's to another amazing year; let's all doc better together! 🍻