Too much information: the difference between technical copywriting and technology copywriting

by Sophie Cole

image overlay

Sometimes the beauty of modern technology solutions is in the details – those seemingly small differences that set your product apart from your competitors. But what do your end users or clients really need to know? Here’s how to nail your technology copywriting without getting hung up on the details.

Modern life is defined by clever technical solutions that make our daily routines easier in almost every way. Businesses have undergone intense digital transformations in recent years, to introduce virtual and cloud-based collaboration into every part of their operations. In our personal lives, there’s an app or technological solution for everything, from calling a lift using our phones to picking an outfit for the day digitally a la Clueless.

Technical solutions are like swans. Their slick, seamless user interfaces belie the expensive and often fraught development or engineering processes that go on under the surface. The people who create them are laser focused on the details, constantly checking for any bugs that could potentially spoil the entire product.

As such, it’s only natural that you want to draw attention to this incredibly detailed work. For those who are close to a project, the specifics of the backend and APIs are fascinating. To these skilled professionals, the technical details show just how much knowledge and effort has gone into the project. But the average user, who may not be particularly technically or technologically minded, will end up confused rather than engaged if they’re bombarded with details they don’t understand.

So what’s the difference between technical writing and technology copywriting?

The difference between technical writing and copywriting

At first glance, it’s easy to think that technical writing and technology copywriting are interchangeable names for the same thing. In reality, they’re very different – both stylistically and in terms of their intended end user.

Technical writing is intended to explain the nitty-gritty of a product. It’s not meant to be persuasive or beguiling and is for users or customers who’ve already bought into what you’re offering. Technical writing gets into the specifics of your product and service, explaining the details the end user needs to know to get the most out of their purchase. It’s not always the most exciting content to produce or read, but it’s key to ensuring your customers, support staff and wider user base understand the essentials of using your product or service.

Technology copywriting, however, has an entirely different goal. Its purpose is to highlight the benefits of your offering in a way that the reader understands and encourages them to engage with your brand. For example, if you’re writing about a high-spec washer/dryer, your potential customer will be looking to find out how it performs and helps them – like the fact that it’s energy efficient or dries clothes quickly without shrinking them. And that’s where the features vs benefits concept comes in…

Features vs benefits

Highly technical products may have lots of incredible features. But to the average reader and user, these features and aspects are only important because of the benefits they offer. Focusing too heavily on the technical details without translating them into benefits that your user understands could confuse and alienate large parts of your audience. But what’s the difference between a feature and a benefit?

Features are aspects of a product that are responsible for its capabilities and make it stand out. A notable feature of a laptop marketed at gamers could be its RAM – let’s say it has 16GB of RAM, for example. A benefit frames a feature in a context the user can tangibly understand. Rather than just stating the figure, you could explain that 16GB of RAM (along with other features) means the laptop responds to your requests more quickly. This will give you a better gaming experience, with faster frame rates and reduced lagging.

Benefit-led technology copy allows you to speak to a wide audience on a level they can understand. Framing technical information within the benefit it offers, allows you to speak to everyone from tech buffs to key decision-makers to tech agnostic (and phobic) customers. Those in the know will get the specifics they need while everyone else will get the general gist.

Even if your reader doesn’t know what level of RAM they need, or even know what RAM is, they’ll still understand your product is a good choice for them as a keen gamer. Using benefit-led copy demonstrates that your product removes a big source of frustration, which is an interrupted gaming experience, in a way that’s accessible for all.

Meeting users where they are

Being too close to a product means that technically-minded people can struggle to see the benefits of their products from the perspective of the common person. Thankfully, the benefits of most technological solutions can be boiled down to simple concepts like:

  • Faster
  • Smarter
  • Simpler
  • Safer
  • Cheaper
  • More efficient

Essentially, a benefit tells you that the product carries out its function in a way that is somehow better. Your software is smarter because it can automate a greater number of functions than competitors’ versions. Your industrial machine is safer and faster, because it has improved safety sensors and can handle a greater number of components per hour.

Great technology copywriting speaks to your audience about what matters to them. There may be a small audience that wants to know exactly how a solution was created, but most will only be concerned with how its functionality can make their lives easier. Highly technical details can come later in content aimed directly at engineers, developers and CTOs, rather than copy designed for a large, varied audience.

Striking the right balance

The best technology copywriting is inclusive; it allows everyone to enjoy the benefits of technology solutions, even if they don’t understand the complex processes that power them. Including a level of detail and demonstrating your technical understanding will appeal to customers in the know, while explaining it in simple terms will ensure the average person can get on board too.

There’s one thing both technical writing and copywriting have in common, though. No matter who you’re talking to, make sure you’re considering what they actually need to know. If you’re creating a washing machine user manual, your customer doesn’t need to know (and probably doesn’t care) how many holes are in the drum. Make sure you’re including information that is genuinely relevant, like how to clean the filter in the event of a blockage, rather than just adding facts for the sake of it.

If you’re struggling to strike a balance between technical and accessible in your technology copywriting, we can help. Our expert technology copywriters have helped lots of companies distil complex matters into copy everyone can understand. Get in touch to see how we can work together.

Sign up to hear from us