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Skills and Technologies Survey 2015
– Skills

SkillsTechnologiesPlatformsSurvey Home 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. Content development skills are highly rated with writing procedures (80%) in first place. As for other aspects of content development, Task analysis (68%), Writing reference information (68%), and Interviewing (71%) are all highly rated by three quarters of respondents. Information architecture (60%), Copy editing (58%), and Developmental editing (47%) are valued highly by at about half of respondents. The previous combined entry of Indexing/Search was broken up in 2013 and it continues show a difference. Search (48%) remains important to almost half of respondents. However, Indexing is lower at 28%. This indicates a reliance on tagging and search engines and less effort applied to the traditional compiled indexes. Multimedia – working with images and video – moved up from 48% last year to 56%. Usability testing increased from 39% to 46%. Both of those are positive signs that UA professionals are involved in more diverse activities. Expertise with authoring tools (78%) is always up 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. Project planning is an important skill no matter what your role is. Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents ranked this highly.

Other Skills

We asked respondents to describe other skills that are relevant to their work. These included: accessibility, database knowledge, illustration and photography, JSON, overall systems and development knowledge/exposure, schemas, style sheets, svg programing, UML, jQuery.

Detailed Results

Here is the complete list of skills presented in the survey. They are separate into functional groups. The percentages are of responses rating a skill as “Very Valuable” or “Invaluable”. Content Development Skills Table

Skill Response
Writing procedures 83%
Interviewing (subject-matter experts/customers/users) 77%
Task analysis 73%
Writing reference information 68%
Information architecture (structured authoring, content management, taxonomies) 60%
Copy editing 65%
User interface design (embedded UA, field labels, UI Help text) 56%
Multimedia (images, video, audio) 54%
Search (tagging, metadata, search engine optimization) 49%
Developmental editing 49%
Instructional design 39%
Indexing (keywords, Index tab, back-of-the-book) 28%

Other Skills Table

Skill Response
Expertise with authoring tools 78%
Project planning (without management or supervisory responsibilities) 73%
Content reuse (single-sourcing) 63%
Quality assurance and testing 65%
Usability testing 46%
Management and supervision 31%
Translation / Localization 32%

Code-level Expertise Table

Technology Response
HTML / CSS 64%
XML (DocBook, DITA, DTDs, Schema) 32%
Style Sheets / Transformations (XSLT, XSL-FO) 29%
DITA 19%
JavaScript (or other client-side scripts) 15%
Programming (C++, C#, Java, J#, VB, etc.) 9%
Server-side scripts (ASP, JSP, PHP, Perl, etc.) 6%