I attended NORDIC TechKomm: The Conference on User Experience and Technical Communication along with a fellow Solteqian in Copenhagen, Denmark on September 21-22, 2022 . At NORDIC TechKomm over 130 international experts from 18 countries came together in Copenhagen to discuss trends and current topics in the field of technical communication. The main focus was on Intelligent Information for Users.
Over the two days, a wide range of topics were covered, including future challenges for technical communications profession and professionals, societal impact of technical communication and UX design, how to tie our work to organizational strategy, as well as technological advances and their impact upon our profession.
Below are some of the key takeaways & some musings on how they relate to my work at Solteq.
💡 Technical Communication and UX as a Transformative Force
As technology becomes increasingly complex, the need for optimized user experience and suitable guidance documentation in the form of manuals, online helps and such becomes more and more pronounced. Promoting inclusivity and ease of use in this context brings technology closer to the user and reduces social divisiveness and inequality.
When designing, producing and delivering documentation at Solteq, the aim is to constantly improve user experience, for example by integrating documentation in our products, as well as providing easy-to-use technical solutions for finding the right information at the right time. For example, the user documentation for our Commerce Cloud multichannel digital commerce solution is readily available online in both Finnish and English, and is being constantly expanded and improved in order to better serve the needs of different user groups. The user documentation for our Tekso system is currently under major revamping; the new & improved user manual will also be made available online in the near future.
🎯 User at the Center
Both technological advances and change in mindset has lead us to the point that in place of being just passive recipients of information, users nowadays are active creators of technology-related content; take for example various discussion forums dedicated to solving use cases and problems, which are not adequately covered by "official" product documentation, where users manifest their own way of using technology. Users come up with extremely complex use cases, and documenting those in flexible manner would benefit all parties involved; the challenge for organizations is, how to engage these users to partake in discussion and turn this so-called tacit knowledge into formal, structured information such as user manuals, help texts and knowledge bases.
One of the most interesting developments in the field is also the focus on minimalism in both content and delivery. Minimalism in technical communication can mean, for example that the users have ability to choose how much information they need to perform a task. One example would be a quick-step instruction, whose individual steps can be expanded to provide additional information which is required by more novice users. Of course, taking this approach to documentation requires in-depth knowledge of different user profiles and their needs.
At Solteq we acknowledge that the guiding principle in designing and producing documentation must be to serve the evolving, multi-faceted needs of different user groups, and have indeed taken considerable steps to both improve and expand our user documentation, based on direct input from our customers as well as our own specialists working directly with our customers (such as customer support and solution consultants). The idea is to create a constant flow of information from the customer interface to us, and in turn, provide our customers with constantly evolving and improving documentation.
I wholeheartedly encourage our customers to provide feedback regarding the documentation; we have currently an ongoing initiative to improve documentation via collecting feedback via customer interviews, as well as via more "technical" channels, by giving our customers the possibility to provide context-sensitive comments regarding documentation. An online help portal with an integrated knowledge base to service our customers is also in development.
🔧 The Right Tools for the Right Job
Both production and consumption of technical documents are very much affected by technological development, and some interesting presentations which displayed new documentation tools highlighted the changes, which have been lately taking place in the field.
Modern documentation should be suitable for publishing in multiple formats and via multiple channels simultaneously, as well as being useable with a multitude of devices. Another expectation is that documentation should be malleable, in the sense that users in many cases would like to customize their own experience, picking and choosing what they want to use.
In Solteq’s Unified Commerce and Sale Platforms we are using Atlassian Confluence as our documentation tool of choice, and based on both my previous experience in using the tool, as well as aforementioned demands, the choice has been rather fitting.
Confluence combines easy usage with robust documentation functionalities (drafting, reviews etc.) which can further be complemented with a huge number of add-ons which enable us to customize and modify our documentation environment of better serve our customers’ needs as well as out internal processes. It supports multi-format, multi-channel publishing with possibility to implement feedback/discussion channels.
One of the key issues that I feel is often overlooked, is also that documentation tools should have the capability to be integrated into product development and customer support processes, and Confluence provides this capability very well. On the quality control side, targeted in-context reviewing is possible, and any corrections and adjustments to documentation (including even minor changes made because of hotfix updates to our products) can also be rapidly published and made available to our customers.
Building and developing a documentation system is of course a process which needs to be recalibrated and adjusted along the way, but I'm happy to say that we are currently in a place where the tools serve the actual day-to-day work, and not the other way around.
Do you have questions/comments regarding Solteq's documentation? Feel free to contact me email@example.com.