technical communication on life support: ux and content strategy are the reclamation!

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Overview of the changing nature of technical communication and how it is being overtaken and replaced by UX and content strategy.


  • 1. Technical Communication on Life Support UX & Content Strategy are the Reclamation! Christopher S. LaRoche Senior Adjunct Lecturer College of Professional Studies (CPS) Northeastern University Brian Traynor Associate Professor Faculty of Communication Studies Mount Royal University
  • 2. 2000 KM apart why are we presenting together? Our backgrounds Evolution of our history and work together How and why we arrived here and at this particular conclusion
  • 3. The merging of technical communication with the Usability/User Experience (UX) field has broadly been happening the last few years. We discussed this several years ago at Twente, but UX and now Content Strategy has further evolved with technology and business changes. Failure to recognize and embrace these changes will hasten technical communications marginalization.
  • 4. Changes we describe in our presentation and paper are primarily happening within software and Web organizations. These organizations are at the forefront of where there is an increasingly emphasis placed on user experience, content strategy, and costs/cost reduction. As a result, our teaching and communication programs must adapt and reflect this change to remain relevant and functioning.
  • 5. In 2010 we stated: the era of just in case documentation is dead, while the era of just enoughdocumentation has dawned. Now content strategy is even further refining and changing this concept.
  • 6. Broadly speaking, Content Strategy is the idea of having all [or most] organizational content (marketing, press releases, customer support documentation, traditional technical communication, etc.) delivered to (primarily) external audiences in a consistent, clear, and efficient manner. Content Strategy and it is often tied into the rise of UX and associated with usability and UX.
  • 7. Content Strategy definition (states one expert): Content strategy: planning for the creation, aggregation, governance, and expiration of useful, usable, and brand-appropriate content in an experience. (Bloomstein, Your Key To Connection Without Creepiness)
  • 8. Structurally, TC has been changing over the last decade due to a variety of reasons: Increasing importance of design rationale Compressed development schedules Reduced resources allocated to Documentation Desire for more usable, minimalist, and personalized documentation Assumption all content is available online and user expectation of no cost for this content Single sourcing
  • 9. The last few years have sped up this evolution and increased the speed of the structural changes that were already underway Adapting to this change within TC is critical to remain relevant for academics & practitioners.
  • 10. Technology trends ? Skills needed to support trends ?
  • 11. Expectation that students have an (online) portfolio to showcase their skills and capabilities. For more specialized positions - highly technical and single sourcing is expected. Web and mobile design and development is expected & critical. Work experience allows students to be mentored by practicing professionals.
  • 12. Anecdotally TC jobs vanishing or being morphed into other position descriptions (LinkedIn, Monster, etc.) Want to investigate this further over the next year or two with more data on job changes.
  • 13. 71 positions, 6 last week Only one position in Eng Comm XML, DITA, tech Writing excellence Customer
  • 14. 776 positions, 4 last week 2 4 years experience Portfolio Wireframes, code Business analysis Graphic design User Experience/UX
  • 15. STC membership decline last decade UXPA international membership steady Interesting issues with societies Local chapters Generation Y/Millennial
  • 16. IxDA volunteer based with large membership HFES academically- focused with large membership
  • 17. Technical Communication (STC) Started in 2011 Usability & UX (UPA/UXPA) Two attempts but great resistance HFI commercial entity offering usability certification. Controversial within UX field Academic programs offering degrees
  • 18. Compressed development cycles Commodification of TC Outsourcing (domestic and abroad) Reduced resource allocation for TC Higher demands for user satisfaction Reducing delivered content requirement (both from a cost and volume perspective) More increase in awareness and buy in of UX and Content Strategy offer solutions to management
  • 19. Traditional technical communication skills are demanded and required: solid writing skills, technological inquisitiveness, critical thinking, etc. Understanding UX and Content Strategy is becoming increasingly requested/required Documentation continues to exist but must be radically different than have been done in the past: streamlined, visuals, videos, etc. More words or another user manual is not an option!
  • 20. Lets discuss how our presentation mapped to your understanding and needs! What successes have you had with your students so we can learn from you. What influence do you think social media communications present to TC?
  • 21. Now we want to hear from you! What do you think about the approaches presented? Do you agree, disagree? Lets continue the discussion: