We meet Binoy Milton Dsouza, information engineer at Sigma Technology, to ask him about his views on technical information.
What is interesting about working with technical communication?
As a technical communicator, I’m expected to know what kind of assistance users need while very rarely having the opportunity to interact with users of the product. An interesting part of my job is to find innovative ways to bridge this knowledge gap. I’m also attracted by simple, usable solutions to problems (both big and small). As a technical communicator, that means using my understanding of what the end user needs to provide accurate,concise, and usable information.
How do you think organizations can make sure their documentation is all it can be?
I have noticed that most often, the best technical communication is produced when technical communicators are involved from the early stages of product development and feel involved enough with the development process to share their view about a product and its usability. This usually comes from a deeper understanding of how the product works, and leads to incremental improvements in both the product and its associated documentation, so that the technical communication acts as the first stage of usability testing.
I have also noticed that when organizations view technical communication mostly as a regulatory requirement to be fulfilled, instead of an aid to help users understand their products, the technical communication produced as a result thereof is not very usable.
What are your personal views about the direction technical communication is heading towards in the future?
I think we as technical communicators will need to place a higher emphasis on the context that we deliver technical communication to users, rather than concentrating purely on the content (as we often tend to do) to engage our users more meaningfully. I also don’t think we pay enough attention to the overall information architecture of our deliverables at the moment, and users need to see the whole picture, in order to understand the information presented. I also think that tools/technologies that act as enablers towards efficient content management, easier single sourcing, better structured authoring, and provide support for localization (such as the DITA XML Information Architecture) will act as game changers for us as technical communicators.
I also think that we will need to listen more to our community of users to understand what users need instead of assuming what they might want. Incorporating social tools and web analytics might be one way forward to deliver content that users need, which in turn might open up more collaborative authoring opportunities in the future.