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Targeting of Technical Documentation

Posted by ClickHelp TeamClickHelp Teamin Technical Writing on 1/22/2019 — 3 minute read

Team working on targeting

Technical writing is the means of helping people to understand how something works. Are these people just random? No, not at all. With each user manual, there is at least one obvious thing that its readers have in common – they are all using the same product or service. If we take a step back and adjust the scale, we will notice that these readers have much more in common than that. So once you figure out what it is, it will define everything you do as a technical writer.

The idea behind targeting technical documentation is simple – you need to speak the same language as your readers to be understood. ‘Who am I writing for?’ – is the fundamental question you need to answer. The fact is, it should be answered before any further action is taken.

How to Figure Out Target Audience?

Girl is reading

You can start by asking people in your company. Namely, sales and marketing teams. Mind you, their answers need to be taken with a grain of salt for our cause, and we will further explain why, but, for now, let’s see what questions you can ask your colleagues.

Basically, you need to create a portrait of your average reader, so, here are several criteria to consider:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Citizenship
  • Native language

Any sales or marketing person will have this information as these teams are building all their processes around a target audience.

Here’s why you shouldn’t take their answer as the ultimate solution for the documentation team: the target audience of your product and technical documentation can differ. For example, if you are creating gadgets for seniors, chances are, in case of an issue, they will ask the younger generation to help with the user manual. Or, if you are creating toys for children, then, probably, you’ll need to think about creating an instruction for children and another one for their parents where you would mention details that concern parents only. So, think about who is actually going to read the docs!

Another way to figure out your target audience is by using statistics. For example, Google Analytics integrated into your online documentation portal can provide you with plenty of info on who the readers of your online technical documentation are.

How to Apply Targeting in Technical Writing

Happy man

Let’s imagine that you have figured out your average reader, now what? Basically, you need to fine-tune all the content to match their specific requirements. Here are several aspects to consider:

  • Content complexity. How deep do you need to go with technical details? Imagine how different can software documentation be when written for devs and users. The latter would contain less code, fewer terms, and more detailed more straightforward steps.
  • Visual content. Visual content (screenshots, schemes, graphs) makes it easier to locate some UI elements, understand how a mechanism works, see a correlation between elements, etc. Try to figure out which parts of the UI need screenshots. For example, basic UI screenshots are redundant if you are creating technical documentation for pros.
  • Language. Where your language should stand between strictly technical and more casual solely depends on your target audience. Special attention needs to be drawn to this aspect if you are dealing with an international audience. Using a readability score tool can be a good idea here – such tools evaluate how easy it is to understand written text.

Quite often a target audience is so diverse that technical writers have no other choice but to create different versions of their user manuals tailored specifically for the needs of each target group. Using a technical writing tool that features single-sourcing techniques is a great solution in this case. Single-sourcing is the fastest way to approach the creation of multiple outputs of the same documentation project.


The job of a technical writer is to explain to others how things work. However, just like you would change your approach when you need to explain something to different people in real life depending on their background and topic knowledge, good user manuals are properly adjusted to their readers.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

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