Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The business card of the company

Herbert Herzke about the meaning and usage of manuals - Qualified technical writers are in demand

Question: Mr. Herzke, you too have been desperately in an incomprehensible manual?

Herzke Herbert: Yes, that's also happened to me. That was such a guide that had a bad navigation. Or an Asian from the area, which was translated incomprehensible. If this happens again and again cheap. Incomprehensible sentences are to be read quite funny. If one is dependent on clear information, then you can already despair. For German companies can, however, say that the quality has improved significantly in recent years.
I sometimes get the impression that the instructions the last thing that interests the manufacturer.

Herzke: Very important is that the manufacturer makes clear: The manual is an important part of the product. It must be considered in the planning process from the outset. And not only when a product is about to launch.
Now the crisis has cost pressures determined at the premises not abated. Do you get to feel it?

Herzke: Yes. We have a large market of service providers for technical communication. They get to feel the fact that most customers like the big business due to longer payment terms or press repeatedly renegotiating the costs. Industrial companies also employ their own staff who care for the creation of utility and instructions. Until recently some large companies had reduced working hours. But not in the Technical Communication. A manufacturer such as SKF has indeed create product catalogs anyway, because he can sell nothing else. And to take care of most such catalogs, technical editors. However: Go for some employees from manufacturers of technical communication to retirement, are then more and more service provider on. In short, the work has not decreased and the development cycles are getting shorter.
How is a good instruction manual - the technical editor for the new radio, the new PC, tried out the new software? He also builds a shelf times together?

Herzke: First, it should be a qualified technical writer. What is often a problem yet, because many are beginners page. Which had a technical job, but many lack a specific skill. We still have far too few who have completed an appropriate course of study or training. Our association has therefore developed the tekom certificate. But back to the question: you must actually try. The editor must understand a new product itself, it may not be written in the technical language, but in a language appropriate to the target group. When I write a maintenance or repair manual, I can write other than for the normal user. Since then I have to work much more with pictures and simple sentences. And: Finally, one should make a test of whether the manual work. Maybe even with a test person.
You have to be obviously a lot of know-how?

Herzke: The facets of technical communication - let's take the industrial spectrum Schweinfurt for example - are manifold. For many jobs would be too much detailed but more of a hindrance. For others, however, things must have a good technical background may be present.
What roles do different international laws and standards?

Herzke: there too, must know a technical writer. It put two markets, the trends are: the USA and Europe. The European market has grown. Often, our laws applied in the rest of the world rather than the American. But there are private arrangements between the companies, which are quality and extent of technical documentation regulated.
What about with cultural differences?

Herzke: Images and text can not always translate to one to one. There is so much flowery language, as in the Far East. To ensure that our technology is understood abroad, must be translated instructions carefully and adapted to cultural requirements.
Many people read any instructions. Also includes the creative incentive to good order?

Herzke: Yes, we need visual incentives. Previously you could get the impression that it was dealing with two different machines, if you compared the advertising brochure with the instructions. The latter gray and uninviting. But there are also different types of users. For the taxonomist, I must provide a clear structure. Others have a kind of playfulness and access only to the guide if they do not get ahead.
If you look at your work, it finds itself very quickly in the field of epistemology: how people learn, what they perceive?

Herzke: Technical Communication is a cross section of many sciences. How do people absorb information best, or why we do not like to read instructions are important questions. Of course you should know how information is processed. All these points are addressed in the training of technical editors. And we must never lose sight of, for whom one writes.
Tekom - Society for Technical Communication

Herzke Herbert is Deputy Chairman of the tekom - Society for Technical Communication, with 6900 members of Europe's largest trade association for technical communication. It represents the profession to create the technical editor, so the employees in industry and service providers that use and operating instructions manuals, service portals or online help. One of the main tasks of the tekom lies in continuing education. It should be international laws and regulations are different, and not least cultural barriers. Who created as a manual for a machine that is shipped to the United States must be aware that they are unskilled operate there.