The Art of Bad Technical Documentation: Explained by a Technical Author to a Manager

Dear Manager,

As the dedicated technical author, let me take you through the “Art of Bad Technical Documentation.” Buckle up because we’re exploring the pitfalls and perils of wrong documentation. Here’s why your documentation is ineffective:

Embrace Ambiguity: The Clarity Conundrum

Why be clear when you can be vague? Inadequate documentation thrives on ambiguity. Instead of providing specific instructions, opt for terms like “thingamajig” and “whatchamacallit.” This keeps users guessing and adds an element of mystery to their experience. Remember, a little confusion goes a long way!

Skimp on Details: The Sparse Symphony

Who needs comprehensive information? Give users enough to make them think they understand, but more is required to accomplish their task. Skip critical steps and assume everyone knows what you mean. For instance, “Attach Part A to Part B” works perfectly without mentioning the dozen screws and the exact alignment required. Less is more!

Organise Chaotically: The Disarray Dance

Create a comprehensive setup guide with troubleshooting tips, installation instructions, and advanced features. This will ensure users spend more time searching for information than using the product. Plus, it will turn your documentation into a treasure hunt—fun—fun, right?

Prioritise accuracy: The Error Extravaganza

Facts are boring. Spice things up with outdated or incorrect information. If a user follows the steps and things don’t work, it adds excitement. Who needs up-to-date screenshots or correct commands? Keep them on their toes and guessing!

Overwhelm with Jargon: The Terminology Tango

Fill your documentation with as much technical jargon as possible. If a user doesn’t have a Ph.D. in your field, that’s their problem. Avoid plain language and never define terms. This creates an elite club of those who “get it” and keeps the riffraff out.

Bore to Tears: The Monotony Marathon

Write your documentation like a legal contract—dense, dry, and devoid of any engaging elements. Forget about headers, bullet points, or visuals. Walls of text are your best friend. If your readers fall asleep halfway through, you know you’ve done a successful job.

Ignore Accessibility: The Inclusion Illusion

Accessibility? What’s that? Ensure your documentation is as unfriendly as possible to those with disabilities. Tiny fonts, poor contrast, and a lack of screen reader compatibility are essential. After all, catering to everyone’s needs is just too much work.

Conclusion: The Hallmarks of Bad Documentation

In summary, inadequate technical documentation is an art form that requires a special touch. By embracing ambiguity, skimping on details, organising logically, prioritising curacy, overloading with jargon, boring your audience, and ignoring accessibility, you, too, can create user guides that are as entertaining as they are frustrating.

So, let’s raise a glass to the fine art of lousy documentation. Here’s to keeping our users on their toes and ensuring our tech support team never runs out of work.

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