Book Review: The Developer's Guide to Content Creation

I'm in year two of technical blogging and I've learned a lot. I have far far more views and comments than I thought I would at this point. At the beginning I was throwing my thoughts into the void and it felt good. Reading The Developer's Guide to Content Creation reminded me of those roots. It inspired me.

I love seeing people blog about their passions and thoughts especially when it's on a personal website. Personal websites are cool and weird and make the internet more enjoyable for me. If there's a link in your bio there's a high chance I'll click it.

So I'm very happy, on this quiet and unusually cold Sunday, that there are resources for those who are starting out on this journey!

The Best Beginner Introduction to Blogging

Without a doubt The Developer's Guide to Content Creation is the best resource for those looking to start writing content for developers. Before reading it, I had a shortlist of topics that I thought such a resource should cover and it nailed every one. Morillo's writing is clear and engaging. She tells us how to write content that is accessability in presentation but also in content. She reminds us how not to write as well:

  • "Just follow these simple steps"
  • "It’s easy to put together"
  • "The answer is obvious"

I’ve realized that many writers of technical content use these words to make the subject matter seem less intimidating to the reader. They genuinely want to remove friction for their users, but they’re using language that makes the reader feel like the problem is with them.

Rich in Resources

The Developer's Guide to Content Creation also contains copious amounts of worksheets to inspire you, help you strategize, and put together a content calendar.

There are resources linked throughout the book that compliment each section. There's also an example of how to insert resources into an article in a more descriptive manner. To mirror one of Morillo's examples, take GitHub's trending page.

For a reader, the second version flows better.

Morillo recommends comprehensive resources like DigitalOcean's Technical Writing Guidelines as well as tools that take seconds to set up and run on your writing.

AlexJS is an open-source tool that will help you "spot insensitive, inconsiderate writing."

Hemingway App is an online editor that helps you simplify your writing. It highlights confusing sections, areas that are too long, and more.

To add my own, reading other technical blogs can be a good resource and I'd recommend Hacker Noon's shortlist for Personal Developer Blog of the Year to get started. Drew DeVault posts great content and will occasionally pay out $20 to people starting a technical blog on an open platform (i.e. not Medium). Google have also released a free course on technical writing although I believe it's aimed more towards those writing technical documentation.

The Shape of a Post

Morillo talks a lot about how technical blogs are consumed and how they appear to users.

Before you start writing, you need to understand how people read online. People don’t read every word and every sentence; they scan. They’re scanning for the most relevant information and things that pop out at them will command their attention.

Thinking about the shape of a post can help during the editing stage. It's a way to cut through complexity and grab readers who would have otherwise failed to skim read blocks of text and given up. It also helps those who come to your post only looking for that one line of code that will unblock them.

We're reminded that people scan for "keywords, section headings, bullets, anchor text (when hyperlinked), words that are bolded or italicized for emphasis".

The Developer's Guide to Content Creation covers topics that were getting dusty in the back of my mind as well as delivering a nuggets of wisdom. Even as I write this post, I'm considering Morillo's advice. It's for this reason that I would recommend this book to anyone writing content for developers no matter their experience. It has changed the way I will approach writing for my personal blog as well as for my company's blog.

Following this book, Morillo is currently writing The Developer's Guide to Book Publishing — I'm looking forward to it!