With all the news about the skyrocketing demand for smartphones overtaking computer purchases, you might think that technical writers would increasingly need to focus on writing and delivering user assistance for mobile devices.
For technical writers, writing for mobile appears to be the next big thing. Here are a few examples:
- Mobile devices will be the primary connection tool to the Internet for most people by 2020, according to the Pew Research service.
- References to mobile phones and tablets are abundant at the WritersUA conference and the upcoming Society for Technical Communication conference.
- Help authoring tools such as MadCap Flare and RoboHelp tout that they support publishing content for mobile devices using the ePub output.
- There’s even a book dedicated to the topic called Developing User Assistance For Mobile Apps by Joe Welinske.
So along with social media, one might think that creating user assistance for mobile devices will revolutionize the way we work. There’s one problem though. In the last year, I have yet to see one job description in Vancouver that explicitly refers to preparing content for mobile devices. When it comes to technical writing opportunities, Vancouver is no Silicon Valley but it’s not unusual to see five to 10 advertised jobs per month.
I don’t think anyone can argue that creating user assistance for mobile development is too new. According to Apple’s web site, there are reportedly 500,000 applications for the iPhone and iPad. There are also thousands of applications that run on the Android operating system. And smartphones have been available for years. So why is there not a surge in demand for user assistance for mobile devices? Some guesses:
- Software developers are writing the content. While the user assistance written by developers may not be professionally written and formatted, perhaps management feels that the content is “good enough”? After all, if a mobile app requires a lot of documentation, it probably means that it’s difficult to use. Users expect apps to be simple.
- Perhaps writing for mobile is not big as predicted. Employers in Vancouver are not clamoring for writers with mobile experience. To be fair, I searched for “technical writer mobile” on the U.S. job site www.dice.com and found that 41 of 649 jobs mentioned “mobile” in the job descriptions. Hardly a tsunami!