More and more companies are investing time and resources to create online documentation for a number of reasons. The foremost purpose that online documentation helps to solve is allowing its users to get answers on important topics easily, without having to seek assistance from a specialist. The purpose of documentation is to explain the features of a product or service, and how it can be implemented and be useful to customers as well as support teams. It can be presented both in physical and virtual form.
With a staggering amount of information available on the web, researchers have found that over 90% of users do quite a lot of research online. Each customer checks out at least 10.4 sources of information before deciding to buy a product. Given these statistics, it is in a company’s best interest to present the best possible online help for retaining customers or acquiring new ones.
5 tips on creating the best online documentation
Here are 5 hacks that can help companies to create an online knowledge base and make it accessible to every possible user:
1. List down the topics: Before creating any document, make sure you have an outline of topics in place. This step is to ensure that all the topics enlisted have been duly addressed. This is essential in deciding the flow of the document and what has to be included where. Talk to your team members for inputs and also think like a customer. What issues are your customers likely to face? The help desk at your office is another resource as they directly deal with customers. If in doubt, check out a competitor’s user documentation to get some ideas on the structure. Once a comprehensive list has been made, the next step in the process is to engage with domain experts.
2. Make it crisp: Creating and using templates will ensure that your end-user documentation is to the point. Templates also help writers to create easy-to-follow instructions. As a company offering product/service documentation, it is your responsibility to have structured documents in which answers to any issue are simple to locate. Your document should make it straightforward for a person with no experience to navigate and find answers. Using templates and figuring out the right structures for the first time will simplify the process in the long run. Ensure you keep in mind the following elements:
- Table of contents
- Step by step instructions
- Multiple sections to compartmentalize information
- Search Bar to allow easy browsing
There are style guides that offer tips on grammar and structure. Choose from the Microsoft Manual of Style or any other and make your online knowledge base as good as it can get.
3. SEO optimized: Use SEO techniques for optimizing your content so that your online documentation is an effortless experience for customers. Remember, you are also a customer and may need to use information such as this in the future too. Include links to similar or relevant topics in order to establish interconnection. Before including links, make sure that the topic flow is seamless. Another reason for doing this is to make it search engine-friendly. Search engines help users find what they want by using keywords. Indexing by keywords makes it fast and easy to find the needed information to carry out a difficult task.
4. Using screenshots: Each person’s learning style is different, hence ensure that you have a proper blend of text, images, and videos in your document. Some customers might understand it better through videos, while some might prefer to read. So to cater to a diverse audience, embedding multimedia in your document is a safe bet. You can also use screenshots to explain how to use a product. Laying instructions out in steps with accompanying screenshots eliminates confusion with multiple items on a screen. Experts recommend updating screenshots and other aspects of a document whenever a product or service is upgraded. Use active voice when you write instructions or use screenshots, which helps in minimizing doubts on what to do next.
5. Make the document responsive: With more and more people using smartphones, the ability to create online documentation that is responsive is essential. Chances are that your product users may want to open documents on any operating system. If you don’t have such capabilities in place, it can dissatisfy your long-term customers. Users these days like to access help when they need it, wherever they are. So, do not limit document access to your user audience. Ensure that all your documents have information on technical details so that users understand the cause and effect of using your product/service. Include a glossary so that your use of specific terms or jargons in particular context is understood by end users.
Benefits of Online Documentation
The benefits of offering online documentation are huge as companies can keep customer support costs down, promote end-user productivity, and ensure constant availability of important documents. It surely takes some effort to create proper documentation for a product or service, but it is well worth the time in the long run. Many companies hire qualified writers to produce essential information and also create videos. Good documentation hacks include:
- Easy navigation of a page
- Screenshots which are annotated
- Links to relevant articles
- Training videos
- Apt titles and subtitles for content
- Examples which make understanding a topic easy
- Current information
- Comment sections for users (this feedback can be used to update relevant sections)
- Unique URLs for every topic in the content repertoire
There are several platforms and tools which are being used to create and upload technical documents. Good documentation indicates consistency, reduces the workload for users and has a huge impact on your company’s brand. Your product or service has no value if it cannot be used easily. Documentation can help in shaping users to think differently and also educate them. When customers are excited about using your product, your job of creating good online documentation is done.
Guest article written by: Brayn Wills currently holds the position of knowledge management expert at ProProfs. Prior to this, he was working as an Instructional Designer at the same firm. In his new role, he is responsible for creating unique and relevant content on knowledge base tools and keeping track of the latest developments in the realm of knowledge management. In his free time, he is either reading a new book or exploring offbeat destinations.