Do we need to write conceptual information in manuals?

Technical communicators spend time on writing conceptual information, such as insights into how a product works. But is this relevant for the user?

Text by Jonatan Lundin


Image: © Lasse Frank, Mälardalen University

Most technical communication – in the form of PDF manuals, chatbots or microcontent, etc. – contains instructions guiding the user step by step. For industrial software and hardware, it often also contains conceptual information detailing, for example, which parts a system consists of and how it works. But while task-oriented information is a must in technical communication, what purpose does conceptual information serve the user?

Having worked as a technical communicator for over 25 years, I find that there is uncertainty about the purpose of conceptual information. Technical communicators spend valuable time writing and translating it – raising the question of whether we could just skip it. After all, isn’t that the principle of minimalism?

This article discusses whether you should write conceptual information or not. I will first explain what I mean by conceptual information, then ...