I started out in radio, writing for words to be spoken, never read. It was hard to switch my brain over to print media, where technical writing has to have all the elements of layout and design as well as utility and readability. Now I’ve moved into digital media and despite being told by many how wonderful it is, I struggle with believing it is the end all, be all, of modern technical communication.
In spite of its popularity and explosive growth, digital media has some distinct disadvantages over print media. With digital media:
- Readers don’t typically read online, they scan. So what is the point of me writing crafted prose anyways?
- It’s harder to read online, we read slower (about 25%), and remember less (reduced from 70% to 50%), meaning will anyone remember a word?
- Digital media lacks tactile qualities–we can’t thumb through it, so we get lost and don’t know how much information there is. Hence why paper books are still with us.
- Readers often don’t trust online and digital information. Have you seen wikipedia?
- Digital information is only available through a computer or mobile device. So not everyone can access it.
- Digital information competes with the other software products for screen real estate. Or advertising.
Don’t assume I hate digital writing because I believe it’s power and beauty has only begun to be explored. Writers and editors, however, must have special skills to create digital media and online content then. Just like radio or print, I need to upgrade my skills and clients have to ask for that expertise. Clients and writers have to understand that maybe digital does not suit all projects, and understand the limitations to the medium. Then we can compensate for them.