In the software development world, a full stack engineer is someone that has a diverse set of skills that span multiple levels of the development flow. The same is true for technical writers, where having skills that go beyond the ability to write good content come in handy.
Does your company’s technical writer have the ability to convert their writing into HTML or Markdown? Can they assemble a website that allows users to consume their content in a more effective way? Are they well versed in the lingo of the engineers they work with? Do they have the ability to create video tutorials to go along with their writing?
When a technical writer can deliver content that goes beyond Word documents, their value to the companies they work with is greatly improved.
Basic Website Development
A technical writer with the ability to not only create content, but to create the platform on which the content is consumed, is invaluable to a company on a budget. Companies that want to maintain their own online knowledge base would normally have to hire numerous individuals to handle the creation and deployment of documentation.
The handling of ongoing maintenance and HTML conversion of documentation is an expensive proposition for many companies. Often, numerous individuals have to be allocated to the task of maintaining online documentation. When a technical writer can handle their own content updates, it introduces extra value for the company.
Understanding the Lingo
Technical writers have to spend much of their time interviewing and listening to engineers describing their products. Engineers love to use acronyms and industry jargon that doesn’t translate well to the world of documentation.
Technical writers that take the time to gain a better understanding of common engineering terms – especially those native to their industry – are better equipped to quickly and accurately turn technical concepts into clear documentation.
Working with Development Software
A technical writer often has to create documentation for software that hasn’t been completed yet. This can mean having to create a testing environment on the writer’s system. For web-based software, this means creating a local server.
Add on other local software tools and testing environments like Docker containers, Node, and databases, and it gets more complicated. A full stack technical writer can more easily pick up and run with software in various states of development.
Being comfortable with using the command line or managing a Linux VM greatly improves the writer’s ability to quickly pick up on and write about the software being developed through these tools.
Creating Compelling Diagrams
The written word will only get a writer so far. With technical documentation, the introduction of visual aides like diagrams and flow charts makes a big difference on reader comprehension and information retention.
By having the ability to describe products visually as well as through writing, a technical writer adds value to the project. Ultimately, it makes a big difference on how well their documentation is received by their peers.
The best documentation appeals to all types of learners. Visual and audio learners alike appreciate the inclusion of multimedia content alongside written documentation whenever possible. If you are writing about a user interface, being able to demonstrate that interface being used in a screencast alongside well-written voiceovers is an exceptional value-add for the reader.
This puts the technical writer in a position where they are not only useful for their writing talents, but to become a bigger player in the marketing and outreach aspects of the business, as well.
Many technical writers at small companies are asked to wear several hats. Having some working knowledge of video editing software goes a long way – especially when the writer’s role starts to bleed into social media and other more marketing-focused areas of the business.