Technical writing is a complex process that requires proper orchestration. We can see how it is evolving with time, too. Technical writing is now more integrated into user experience than ever before. The thing about integration — you can’t do this on a micro level, you need the bigger picture. We mean, you could, but the results would be not as great as when we actually consider technical documentation an important part of user experience from the very beginning. So, a very definite set of responsibilities has been shaped. Something a bit different than just a tech writer. This role is called ‘Information Architect’, and today’s blog will be dedicated to this phenomenon.
To understand information architecture, let’s turn to something more common — software architecture. A software architect is someone who’s working on the most high-level development stuff. The backbone of development in the form of high-level choices like standards, tools, major goals, and direction is built by a software architect. You can fix low-level things pretty quickly, but serious mistakes at higher levels of a project can be fatal. This is why a software architect is such a highly-praised role. Their level of responsibility is huge.
An information architect is sort of doing the same thing for technical writing projects. We often mention this simple fact — technical communication should be tailored specifically for the target audience and provide a smooth user experience. The input of each technical writer is enormous in this regard, of course, but still limited. Some things can be only seen and fine-tuned from a higher perspective. An information architect is the one to build a strategy all help authoring processes will be aligned with.
Can any technical writer become an information architect? I am going to answer this as follows: most technical writers clearly have a perfect background for this role. Here’s what’s required from an information architect skill-wise:
- Being able to compose a comprehensive content strategy
- Having a clear understanding of how the product described in the documentation works and how users are interacting with it
- Being aware of outputs or versions of technical documents that need to be created and the underlying differences between them
- Understanding help authoring processes within the company
- Good communication skills for working with tech writers and cross-team collaboration
Actually, this role is not a recent invention — it exists in every successful documentation team. Quite often, the responsibilities of it are fluid and different team members are stepping into this role from time to time. Especially, it is true for more experienced tech writers. However, having a designated person to fulfill this role has many advantages:
- A specific process will be set up to control how well technical documentation is aligned with the audience and the overall company’s goals
- No parts of the process will be left out how this could have happened when these responsibilities are not explicitly assigned to anyone
- Technical documentation will be more comprehensive and cohesive
Information architecture is something any tech writing team should consider. Modern user manuals cannot be standalone entities — companies are striving to reach this seamless overarching experience for their users. And, information architects can be of great help here.
Good luck with your technical writing!
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