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Finding the right work to do: Lessons learnt from a year at a startup

What really matters in tech writing? What should our goals be? How can we do the right thing for our users, and also show our companies that we’re valuable?

Technical writers tend to be stretched thin: there’s often more that we want to do than we ever possibly have time for. And because there’s too much to do, we have to compromise. Instead of prioritising based on who shouts the loudest, or what release goes out this week, you can prioritise based on what’s really important: what makes life better for our users.

Based on the lessons learnt from a year of working in a (sometimes chaotic) tech startup, this talk will discuss what the real aims of technical writing are, how to decide what work is actually useful, and how to demonstrate that your work makes a difference.

You will learn:
- how to discover what problems you should really work on
- ways to approach those problems that minimize wasted work
- how to tell whether what you’re doing is actually working for users

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Finding the right work to do: Lessons learnt from a year at a startup

  1. 1. Finding the right work to do Lessons learnt from a year at a startup Beth Aitman @baitman
  2. 2. This talk will cover how to ● Make life better for users ● Show value to the business ● Minimize wasted work @baitman
  3. 3. Three stages 1. Finding the right problems to solve 2. Working out how to solve them 3. Finding out if it worked @baitman
  4. 4. So who am I? @baitman
  5. 5. @baitman
  6. 6. @baitman
  7. 7. Life at Improbable @baitman
  8. 8. @baitman
  9. 9. @baitman
  10. 10. 1: Finding the right problems @baitman
  11. 11. Our job is not to write help. @baitman
  12. 12. Our job is not to write help. Our job is to help users. @baitman
  13. 13. @baitman
  14. 14. Tech writers have useful skills @baitman
  15. 15. Work with customer support @baitman
  16. 16. @baitman
  17. 17. Taking time to understand users @baitman
  18. 18. Collating feedback @baitman
  19. 19. 1b: Prioritising those problems @baitman
  20. 20. Pick things that: ● Are valuable to users ● Are valuable to the business ○ help with company goals ● Minimize wasted work ○ will last through cycles of product change ○ will continue to be valuable to users ○ will be valuable to a wide range of users @baitman
  21. 21. Prioritisation urgent important not urgent important urgent not important not urgent not important @baitman urgency importance
  22. 22. Quick wins @baitman
  23. 23. 2: Finding the right solution to problems @baitman
  24. 24. What is quality? @baitman
  25. 25. @baitman
  26. 26. The only thing that matters is: is what you make working? @baitman
  27. 27. @baitman
  28. 28. 3: Finding out if it worked @baitman
  29. 29. Usability testing @baitman - Based on real user tasks - Get users to think out loud - Don’t interrupt or lead them! - On site is best, but remote will do - Test your real users
  30. 30. Metrics
  31. 31. Qualitative feedback @baitman
  32. 32. Showing your value @baitman
  33. 33. Some business cases ● Better product -> more customers -> $ ● Easier to use -> less support time -> $ @baitman
  34. 34. In conclusion @baitman - Find the right problems - Find sensible solutions - Check they worked - Keep iterating!
  35. 35. Thanks for listening! Any questions? @baitman Helpful resources: