Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Losing your audience before you begin

I am always telling software developers and project engineers that the people who use their products and software are not replicas of themselves - they have different expectations, different motivations and intentions, and completely different levels of knowledge about the product. Part of the contribution that technical writers is opening up the field of knowledge about a product by creating user guides and help systems that are clearly written and easy to understand.

But are we as writers in danger of falling into the same trap? Do we always remember that the people using the user guides and help systems are not replicas of us either? For example, do we bear in mind that some of those users may have sight or hearing difficulties? We could be losing a large proportion of our audience before we even begin.

That's why meetings like the STC UK and Ireland Chapter's Accessibility in Technical Communication and the Workplace event on 13th-14th June is so important. It's a chance to learn how disabilities can affect people and what we can do to make our work more accessible to everyone.

I understand that places for this event are limited, so make sure you book soon.