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Does Tech Comm Fit into Mobile Trends?

by Tom Johnson on Dec 21, 2010 •
categories: technical-writing

In looking back over 2010, mobile trends dominated the marketplace. created the following video to illustrate:

Here are a few of the surprising mobile stats:

  • FIVE BILLION apps downloaded — up from 300 million in 2009
  • 347 PERCENT growth in Twitter mobile usage
  • 100 MILLION YouTube videos played on mobile devices everyday
  • 3,000 PERCENT growth in one carrier's data traffic since 2008
  • 3,339: average number of texts sent per month by US teens.

For more, see Mobile 2010 Year in Review. (Hat tip: Future Changes.)

I admit that I've developed a love affair with my Palm Pre. I had the phone for six months before deciding to download paid apps. Last week I downloaded Feeder, Read it Later, Daily, Angry Birds, and Tweed. My wife bought an iPod Touch last month and also downloaded a bunch of apps too.

I actually prefer to consume content, especially RSS feeds, on my mobile device. When I'm sitting down at my computer, I'm more focused on work or writing, not reading. But the mobile experience provides all kinds of benefits for content consumption -- namely, it offers content in convenient places.

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In all of this mobile frenzy, tech comm must figure out where we fit into this picture. With 5 billion apps downloaded, how many users asked for help files for these apps? Is this a market we should be up to our heels in? Despite the thousands of apps, no one has yet to contact me about creating help content for a mobile device -- not at work, nor on a freelance basis.

This past year I interviewed two people who see mobile as a major trend for technical communication. Both Neil Perlin and Joe Welinske are both involved in mobile markets.

I think that despite the predominance of the mobile market, most apps are too simple and straightforward to need a professional technical writer. Where technical writers might be most useful is in creating quick screencasts to both demonstrate and sell the product to users. With so many apps to choose from, users want a quick preview of the functionality to see how it will work once they purchase it. The ability to create engaging screencasts (a la Michael Pick style) might be a more relevant to move technical writers forward into the mobile market.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.