Determining who’s who and who does what in tech can be tricky. Especially when new job titles are popping up like mushrooms in a dank cave: Some are new, some are just a more modern name for an existing job, and some result from splitting one job into multiple ones. And if you’re confused about job titles in tech writing, that is no surprise either.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about technical writing vs. technical content writing. To continue this series, in this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the roles of technical writers and developer experience writers and see what sets them apart and what they have in common.
Before we start:
Usually, when I talk about technical writers, I’m referring to the IT industry. But obviously, any technology-related field needs technical writers (not everything’s about software 😉 ).
However, this article will focus on technical writers in IT and closely related fields.
What is technical writing?
Technical writers have the vital job of communicating complex technical concepts to a broad audience. They create technical documentation, user guides, manuals, and more to help users perform specific tasks or achieve particular goals. Therefore, they need to be able to write in a way that is understandable to both tech-savvy and novice readers, requiring an empathetic and highly organized workflow.
Here are some typical tasks of technical writers:
- Write documentation that explains how to use a product or service, including user guides, technical specifications, and references.
- Edit and review documentation to ensure it remains current and meets company standards.
- Interview developers, product owners, software architects, and other experts to gather accurate information for documentation.
- Collaborate with the development team and attend meetings to ensure they always have the latest information and can get support when needed.
What is developer experience writing?
Developer experience writers (DX writers) have deep technical knowledge they employ to write technical documentation specifically for developers. They create API references, code samples, tutorials, user guides, and more to help developers use a product or service for their own software projects. DX writers must therefore have a thorough understanding of developers’ needs and expectations and be able to communicate with them on an equal footing.
Here are some typical DX writer tasks:
- Create API references that enable developers to use the service quickly and confidently.
- Write code samples and tutorials to show how developers can achieve specific results or solve common challenges.
- Edit and review documentation to ensure it’s always accurate, especially documentation written by other tech writers.
- Collaborate with developers to ensure documentation and tutorials are helpful, correct, and relevant.
Differences between technical writers & developer experience writers
After reading about the two roles, you’ve probably already spotted some dissimilarities. So let’s examine three core differences between technical writing and DX writing.
Typically, technical writers create documentation for a broad audience, including non-technical users. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything they write has to be universally understandable. Instead, they often create different types of documentation for different audiences.
As the name suggests, developer experience writers focus on crafting technical documentation for developers. So they really only focus on this one target audience.
However, they may create different types of documentation for different developers, such as DevOps, front-end developers, or full-stack developers.
2) Technical knowledge
Technical writers need to understand the product or service they’re writing about but usually don’t require deep technical expertise.
However, the more specialized the audience they write for, the more technical knowledge they need to effectively communicate and convey complex technical information.
On the other hand, DX writers need in-depth technical knowledge and often have hands-on coding experience. In addition, they need to empathize with developers and anticipate and understand their challenges to produce helpful and easy-to-understand documentation.
Technical writers strive to create concise documentation that covers all technical aspects of a product or service to help their audience achieve their goals.
Although developer experience writers also want to create accurate documentation, they focus more on the user experience. They aim to enable developers to successfully and gladly use the product or service. Overall, DX writers do their best to provide an outstanding experience to developers, contributing to successful developer relations and developer marketing.
What do developer experience writers and technical writers have in common?
Let’s step back and examine what we’ve learned about these two roles. Wouldn’t you agree that developer experience writing is a subset of technical writing? All DX writers are technical writers, but not all technical writers are DX writers.
Hence, the two roles have a lot in common, for example:
Excellent writing skills
Both need to write clear and concise documentation that is helpful to their target audience. They also need to know how to make a dry topic engaging to read and how to create different types of documentation for different use cases.
Collaboration with the development team
DX writers and technical writers also need to be great team players and be able to effectively communicate with subject matter experts on their development teams.
They also need to be well organized to keep track of all the changes and new features the team implements.
Attention to detail
Finally, they should be able to identify errors in documentation or code samples and ensure that documentation is accurate and up-to-date. They must also frequently anticipate problems that users and developers might encounter and provide the appropriate documentation to help.
Technical writers and developer experience writers are essential to all types of companies in tech. The more complicated products and services become, the better the documentation needs to be, especially when users don’t have the time or inclination to read reams of documentation before finally getting started.
That’s why technical writers must have excellent writing skills and technical knowledge to convey important information to their target audience in a concise and understandable manner.
Large companies often employ multiple technical writers and DX writers. However, depending on the amount of documentation required for a product or service, one or two technical writers with the skills of a good DX writer are usually sufficient to provide accurate and valuable technical documentation to consumers and developers.
Are you looking for a technical writer with DX writing experience? Get in touch, and let’s chat about getting your documentation on track.
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