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How To Turn Complex Topics Into Content Your Audience Will Understand

Recently, a client in the technology industry wanted to develop clear, easy-to-understand content that their audience could relate to. But it didn’t seem possible.

Without skilled writers to translate technical concepts into business outcomes, this company could not build its content program, which affected its ability to differentiate in a crowded market. The constraints of a difficult reality seemed impossible to overcome.

Yet, their goal really was possible. Let’s explore five ways that you can turn complex ideas into interesting, engaging, and original content.

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Define your audience’s technical knowledge

Successfully writing about complex topics depends on the audience’s knowledge level.

Matthew Rayback, senior manager of UX content strategy at Adobe, has spent the last decade building content programs for technology companies. “Do the work of understanding who your audience is and what their tolerance – or even expectation – of complexity is,” he says.Do the work of understanding who your audience is and what their expectation of complexity is, says @matthewrayback via @SarahLParkerUK @CMIContent.CLICK TO TWEET

The challenge is to avoid being too technical or too simplistic, both of which can prevent readers from connecting with your message. “If you’re writing about a highly technical subject to a lay audience, you likely need to find ways to simplify (think metaphors or examples, etc.),” Matthew says. “But if you’re writing about the same topic to a specialist audience, they will likely be insulted by a simplistic approach and will be evaluating you on your ability to reflect the complexity they’re looking for.”

To match your language with the terms, concepts, and examples with which your audience is familiar, map their technical knowledge before you write.

Example: A List Apart, a site for people interested in web standards and best practices, published an article – Breaking Out of the Box – for a developer audience. The piece uses technical language, such as “device postures” and “Window Controls Overlay for Progressive Web Apps,” shown in the text below, that this audience would understand. However, a layperson likely would find those terms disruptive to their reading experience.