Content Tips

How to generate content ideas for technical writing

Are you struggling to figure out what to write about? Don't worry, you're not alone.

For most people who want to get serious with technical writing, figuring out what to write about is their biggest challenge.

Whether you're writing to impress future employers, give back to the community, build a technical writing portfolio, or establish yourself as a thought leader or expert in your field, coming up with ideas can be a daunting task.

In this article, I’ll present you with some questions you should ponder on, to help you generate a constant flow of article ideas. So, let's get started!

Questions to ask yourself to generate content ideas

Grab a pen and paper, and do this exercise. If you complete it diligently, you should have at least five new content ideas by the end of this article. Ask yourself the following questions:

Who is your target audience and what do they want to know?

Defining your target audience is crucial when it comes to writing. Knowing who your audience is will give you a clear direction on what topics to write about. It's better to niche down and specialize when defining your audience.

Are you writing for beginner data analysts who are trying to make sense of the field? Or are you writing for software engineers turned first-time founders/CEOs? For example, this blog targets technical writers or content creators trying to level up their careers.

Once you've defined your target audience, the next step is to figure out what questions they have and what they want to know. For instance, beginner data analysts might want to know the differences between the data analyst field and data engineering. That's an excellent topic to write about.

You can discover what your target audience wants to know by checking forums such as Stack Overflow, Quora, or specific communities on Slack. If you're trying to create content for frontend developers, you can search for "frontend developer" in the search box on Stack Overflow or Quora. People's questions around frontend development will appear, and you can sift through them for content ideas.

Alternatively, you can ask open-ended questions to your target audience on social media. For example, you can ask "For beginner data analysts out here, what are some concepts or topics you struggle with?" Still, try to make sure that whatever you decide to write about is something that you’re knowledgable about or willing to learn about, so you don’t end up creating fluffy content.

Have you just learned a new concept? Where did you get stuck? What mental models did you use to break it down and understand it? For example, say you just learned and finally understood how conditional rendering in JavaScript works; that's a perfect thing to write about.

Did you recently implement a particular feature in a given project after struggling with it for days? Or did you successfully debug a bug, find a solution, or a workaround to a problem? Write that down. It would be a great way to help out others who might be stuck with the same problem in the future.

Do you have a contrary opinion on how things are done or against a popularly accepted process? These are all ripe content ideas.

When I used to run a frontend development blog, this was my go-to exercise for generating content ideas. Whenever I figured out a solution to a not-so-common task, I would usually blog about it. For example, things like how to filter an array based on values from another array, or how to merge objects in an array by key.

What are some things you’re planning to learn or work on soon?

The quickest way to reinforce a new concept is to write about it. If you have upcoming projects or concepts you will be learning, make a list of them. If you plan to work with an unfamiliar framework, library, or programming language, write about the process. Take note of where you got stuck and how you overcame those roadblocks. Sharing insights about the learning process is valuable.

If you plan to read a new book related to your field of study, consider doing a blog post summarising the major points and what you learned from the book. Share your opinion on whether others should follow the same route and purchase the book or course.

But these topics have already been about written before

One common worry that most writers have is whether they should write about a topic that has been written about before. The answer is yes. Yes, write about it in your own unique way. Don't write something generic. Bring your perspective, stories, language, and thought process to the table.

In his book on content creation and marketing, "They Ask, You Answer", Marcus Sheridan wrote: "One of the biggest fallacies I've heard come out of the mouth of experts is that if someone has already written about something, then it's a waste of time for someone else to add their own two cents to the conversation, especially if they're not adding anything new to the conversation. For a lack of a better way of putting this, the people who make these statements are ignorant of the history of the world and are completely missing the mark. You see, at this point, most of what we say is a repeat of what someone else has said... For many readers, yours might be the one that touches them."

Someone else has definitely written an article on how to generate article ideas for technical writing, but my article may be the one that resonates with you the most.
Also, don't write off simple ideas, as what you think is common sense may not be common sense for everyone. Focus on quality, not quantity. Create high-quality content that provides value. You don't have to be an expert to be valuable. At the stage you're at, there is someone who needs what you have to offer.

Go create some bomb ass content!

If you followed this blog post as an exercise, you should now have at least five different topic ideas. Take those ideas and start writing! If you're struggling with actually writing the articles, check out this post on the technical writing process. It will help you break down the intimidating task of "TECHNICAL WRITING" into distinct steps that you can check off one by one, making it easier to create content in a systematic way.

You can let me know on twitter if this article was any helpful to you. Toodles!

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