Obi-Wan Kenobi: Content Writer for the Dark Side [Good Design #7]
Obi-Wan Kenobi is a big fat liar. As much as he might try to spin the story in his favor, he still told a bald-faced lie. And we all know it.
Obi-Wan: Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.
Tell that to your next disgruntled customer.
In our social media-driven economy, honesty is the big commodity. Being authentic, being trustworthy—it’s just how good business is done today. And your customers are highly attuned to cues that you can’t be trusted, whether it’s based on “a certain point of view” or simply not being dependable.
Honest, I Didn’t Know I Was Lying
Unfortunately, technical content is fertile ground for untruth. It’s not that we purposefully lie to our customers, but there are so many modifications during product development and documentation that it’s easy for changes to slip by unnoticed. That is, until your customers notice (and they will).
If you want to earn your customers’ trust, you need to make sure your content is honest—100% of the time.
This is the seventh in a series of posts that discuss Dieter Rams’s 10 principles of good design and why good design is necessary for your content. In this series we explore each of the principles and what it means for content writing and technical writing.
Today we look at the sixth principle of good design:
Good design is honest. It does not make a product more innovative, powerful, or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Be honest. Period. That doesn’t simply mean “don’t lie,” but promote truth. Make sure your content is truthful and don’t leave room for inaccuracy. Period.
For the content writer, it means that you don’t exaggerate or promise more than you can deliver. For the technical writer it means not only that but also writing accurate content.
How Then Shall We Design?
Of course, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? So how do you make sure your content is accurate and truthful? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are some thoughts:
Formalize your processes for documentation and product development. A formal, intentional process helps ensure that documentation gets updated at key milestones, and that the documentation process moves parallel to product development.
Create checkpoints. Who are your gate keepers? Make sure they can accurately check your documentation against the latest version of your product at key milestones.
Integrate documentation into your bug and enhancement tracking system. Whenever there’s a change that affects documentation, it should be entered into your bug tracking system to notify your writer. This way, every single change is accounted for.
Review the docs. Again. I guarantee you’ll catch at least one more thing to fix.
Good content design helps ensure that your content is honest. When you can say that your content is honest, without adding any qualifiers (I’m looking at you, Obi-Wan), you’ll win the trust of your customers.
Also in this series:
- The 10 Commandments for Designing Your Content
- What’s the Point of Innovation? [Good Design #2]
- How Companies Make Their Products Useless (And How to Avoid It) [Good Design #3]
- Why the iPad User Guide Matters [Good Design #4]
- Air Guitars and Keeping Loyal Customers [Good Design #5]
- Hey Content, Don’t Be That Guy [Good Design #6]