The time for Rich Media in Technical Documentation is Now!

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a RoboHelp customer inquiring about AIRHelp. The customer wrote, “Our users want more from us…more interactive, rich documentation experiences.”  

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This seems to be a recurring theme in my conversations with our customers. It also emerged in the keynote address I attended at the WritersUA conference in Seattle last month. During that session, every member of the audience received a voting device. The moderators conducted a series of polls, and the audience cast votes with the device in response to each question.

Of all of the questions they asked, this one was the most compelling for me:

Which of the following would you most like to be able to offer to your customers?

The audience was given five choices. Here are the results:

  • Animations/simulations – 56%
  • Videos similar to YouTube – 19%
  • Line drawings and flowcharts – 12%
  • Cartoons – 8%
  • Audio – 5%

These results relay a strong message: Technical communicators see the value of rich media in documentation, and this is something to be optimistic about.

Another illustration of this growing trend is an interesting webinar presented by Larry Kunz entitled, “Why Your Information Isn’t Reaching Your Customers.” During this webinar, he makes a bold statement, “People don’t read any more.” He continues by saying, “We have to master new media, like video and interactive graphics.”

For a long time, I have advocated leveraging Web 2.0 technologies in technical communication to ensure the experiences we deliver meet the expectations of today’s most demanding customers. One of the easiest ways in which we can inject life into our technical documentation is through the use of rich media, such as software simulations, video tutorials and compelling images.

Finally, with the launch of Photoshop CS5 with features like the new content-aware fill, the ability to include rich media in technical documentation is getting easier, as users don’t have to know much about graphic design.

So, let me say it again: The time for rich media in technical documentation is now!

How are you leveraging rich media in your technical documentation? Please share your ideas with me by sending me a Tweet @rjacquez.  

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Contributing Editor:
Cheryl Landes

Cheryl Landes is a freelance technical, marketing, and travel writer based in Seattle.
She’s also an avid hiker and amateur photographer. View her LinkedIn profile at http://twt.tl/TF9NXvs

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