Sometimes we hear Technical Authors complain that the Help Authoring Tool vendors are not innovative enough. We believe that’s an unfair criticism, and that it’s unrealistic to expect the vendors to lead changes in technical communication. The new trends and ideas in technical communication need to come from other places.
We have moved away from Microsoft defining the universally accepted standard for online Help and the Help Authoring Tool vendors working within this framework. With no dominant leader defining the future for User Assistance, making small incremental changes is a less riskier option for the vendors. It’s safer to implement an idea that been proven to work and has been accepted by the technical communications community, than trying to make a major change and hope everyone will adopt it.
So where else will we see new trends and ideas emerging? Does technical communication innovation happen in the same was as it does in science (often in waves of rapid revolution)? Is it like the fashion industry (where ideas from a few leaders in couture work their way down to everyday clothing)? Or is there some secret body that’s making the decisions in the shadows for everyone?