The 2009 WritersUA Skills and Technologies Survey

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The development of user assistance is a blend of a wide variety of skills. Technical communication skills provide the foundation. They are supplemented by skills unique to the software development world. In this survey, we asked the respondents to value the importance of a number of skills commonly employed by user assistance professionals in their daily work. The figure below shows the top ten skills valued highly with a rating of "4" (Very Valuable) or "5" (Invaluable), the top two ratings on a five-point scale.

Most Valued User Assistance Skills

Experience with authoring tools (84%) is at the top of this list. This is a key skill that is valued highly. The nature of working with a digital medium like software user assistance requires the use of a variety of tools. A plumber needs a pipe wrench and we need our authoring tools. Job listings frequently include a variety of tools as prerequisites, so it pays to keep your tool skills current and comprehensive.

Content development are highly rated with writing procedures (81%) and writing reference information (75%) numbers two and three, respectively.

Project planning is an important skill no matter what your role is. Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents ranked this highly.

As for other aspects of content development, the value of Interviewing (69%) has increased. Task analysis (60%), Information architecture (61%), and Copy editing (56%) are also valued highly by over half of respondents.

Working as software developers also requires us to be knowledgeable about markup and programming languages. Coding HTML or XHTML (63%) and Style sheets (54%) are virtually requirements today. We place less emphasis on the importance of detailed knowledge of XML (41%), JavaScript (18%), or other Programming languages (10%).

Indexing/Search (52%) is valued by just over half of the respondents as an important element in our users finding their way quickly and accurately to the needed content.

Other Results

Here are the percentages of respondents rating the rest of the skills choices as either "Very Valuable" or "Invaluable":