Technical writing – policies, procedures, fact sheets, public-use information – needs to be, above all else, fit for purpose. We often talk about technical writing needing to be engaging, interesting, and visually stimulating. Agreed! Engaging, interesting, and visually stimulating content is important but technical writers aren’t developing advertising content and aren’t writing a best-seller (although many would like to).
Technical writing needs to be comprehensible (readily understood) by the majority of its readers. It needs to hang together in a coherent manner so it provides a complete picture. It needs to empower people to make informed decisions. When it achieves these goals we consider it fit for purpose.
Sure, it’s nice to “invite the reader in” through engaging and visually stimulating material but the reality of today’s society is that most of us only seek out technical documentation or information when we need it. Not many of us browse corporate or government websites with the goal of reading engaging and visually stimulating material in our spare time. Most people end up on a website when they need information and that information needs to be fit for purpose.