Online documentation is important – it is the work that is hidden behind all the flashy products, humble graphics and text that provide you with knowledge when you need it the most, and the best part is that you can do all this without someone else’s assistance.
Many businesses think that they can ignore online documentation and offer products to their customers without a help menu, user guide or a tutorial. But if you want your business to be successful, you need to have online documentation.
Why Online Documentation Is Important?
Documentation is the media, either in text, video or images, that explains a service or product, or according to the Oxford Dictionary, “material that provides official information”. Whether it is a piece of paper that shows you how to use your public transportation pass, or a guide to some operational procedure, or the knowledge base, documentation can deliver anything, from basic to advanced.
Documentation has a goal of turning beginners into experts, so it can be thought of as a lesson, because that is what it represents. People are reading online documentation, they search online for help and look for tutorials that will show them how to use a service or a product.
Here are some of the reasons why you need to create online documentation:
Help your customers – Users often get frustrated when they are having difficulties figuring something out. Some of them call or look for email support, but a lot of people want to learn and solve their problems on their own. Online documentation provides them with that chance. They will be able to solve their problems, feel great and fall in love with your service or product.
Help and Support Your Team – You could use one product for many years, and still not know everything about it. This is why a knowledge base is useful for both your employees and your customers. Your team needs to know how to use the product too, for their own reference and to help the customers with the problems they may face.
Create Better Products – It is advised to first create online documentation before you even create your product, because creating it beforehand allows you to notice bugs and issues that may come up during the development. Even if you had created it before you built the product, it can still help you notice any problems that may occur.
How to Create Better Online Documentation
After you have learned why online documentation is important, it is time to write, take screenshots and shoot videos. Creating online documentation is hard work, because it needs to be effective and able to inform your customers how the service or product operates and keep your employees up to speed. Start by documenting obvious things, by walking through your service or product and writing about every part of it. Keep a list of features you believe need to be documented and then cover them one by one.
Structure the Document and Explain Everything
To create effective online documentation, structure it correctly, and no matter what the service or product you are documenting is, be clear. Teach people everything they need to know about the service or product and the industry it is used in. Write like the customer is a first-time user of your service or product, and try to avoid using jargon and any advanced terminology. Use plain language, do not just assume that everyone knows what you are talking about.
Teach and Use Multimedia
If you want to create better online documentation, you need to become a teacher, so practice this art. You do not need to teach them everything, just how to successfully use your service or product. We advise you to use more than just text when creating your online documentation. Experiment with videos for something that is more complex, diagrams and pictures to show them what you are actually saying and GIFs for some simpler features. There are different types of learners, for visual ones images are helpful, and for the analytical type step-by-step tutorials would be a better solution.
Writing Style and Formatting
Media is not the only thing that will help you improve your online documentation, you need to come up with a language and tone that you will later be consistent with everywhere. Choose what terms you will be using for technical features and pick the simplest ways to describe everything. You can even choose a personality style in writing or, depending on the service or product, even use a bit of humor.
Formatting is also important, because it will be easier for customers to find what they are looking for. Use simple titles, big headers, and bold text and make it scroll-able. Add tables and bullet points, so that they can quickly get to steps and points they are interested in.
Make It Reusable and Relevant
Explaining something over and over is not that smart, so explain every feature and then link that explanation every time that feature comes up. If you ever change that feature, you can only update only that part of the documentation article. Some of the best online documentation is the one crafted from support tickets. Take a look at questions customers ask frequently and these topics are the ones you need to cover. The more effort and time you put into explaining those topics, the more you will cut down the volume of your tickets.
These are our ways that will help you create better online documentation. Even if you manage to create great documentation by using online documentation tools, there is always room for improvement. Listen to your customers, write about topics that people are having trouble with and rewrite any documentation that does not seem to solve the problems of your users. Continually work on improving your documentation and feel free to experiment with different ways of sharing important information with your users.