Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Sameer Bhatia who is founder & CEO of ProProfs
If you have just acquired user manual software or looking to potentially power up your manuals and process handling then this is the post for you. Overtime, user guides and manuals have become a common necessity for many activities and client related products. After all, you can’t deliver a service or product without having proper documentation in order to support usage and handling. The problem is that many of these documents follow the same linear structure and are often pushed away since navigation and usability aren’t always that great.
So, what can you do about it? How can you deliver awesome user guidelines and manuals so that results are significantly improved? Read on to find out.
Co-create and design content
Leave aside the “classic” content generation platforms and shift to new ones that incorporate web 2.0 collaboration tools. This is extremely important as manuals or guides are usually revised at various points and incorporate knowledge from various sources or teams.
By centralizing access to documentation and creating virtual workspaces people can actually come together to provide ideas and elaborate content in “real” time. This will enable them to spot problems early, make corrections or simply generate new knowledge. Imagine how costly it would be to summon teams from various locations and how hazardous it can turn out when they have to undertake other tasks as well. Co-creation will enhance the manuals and allow users to access relevant information in shorter time frames.
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Design content across various interfaces
One major problem with user guides and manuals is that they often come in formats that are not legible by new devices. As mobile is the new hype, then it is important to create manuals or guides which can be downloaded in the form of apps or multiple formats such as PDF, EPUB or event HTML. Web visibility is also important and people are now opting to find content online. In this sense, manuals can be transformed into fully navigational pages that be viewed at any time.
It is vital to consider developing apps for iOS or Android as standard practices. The advantage is that users can access fresh content as apps are automatically updated and users don’t have to consult or download documents every now and then. This also reduces the problem of having to consult outdated version of manuals and guides. Also, allowing user comments and feedback is a great way to add reviews and update content.
Focus on knowledge taxonomy and structure
For improved visibility and content recuperation, you apply certain descriptors or metadata in order to assist users to find content. This depends on the software you apply in order to generate the manuals so it is important to take note of the feature. Standard software usually allows you to generate content but does not focus on recuperation and taxonomies which are important filters when searching for information. In this way, if you wish to create manuals for customer experience, you can include metadata such as tags, filters and structure content in a user-friendly manner. All this will make content retrieval easier!
Along with improved content visibility comes cost reduction as having better access to information can significantly cut down costs company wide.
Measure and track usability, focus on growth areas
Creating awesome manuals and user guides is important but if nobody’s using them, then what’s the point? HTML or app based content can help track usage and through analytic tools we can also gain valuable data and insight regarding what content is consulted and which sections specifically. From this point we can take the necessary steps to complement our manuals or implement simpler ones since we might be overloading users with unnecessary information or missing important data.
If there are areas which summon greater user interest, we can also spot them in order to take extensive actions, provide support or create new forms of getting content across to the people. From the data gathered we can also have a clear view of which segment of our target audience is using the content and thus enable better metrics and KPIs. This information is very valuable for service desks that are looking to measure content reuse and value as this is another form of understanding savings due to ticket reduction and increase productivity at the user’s end.
Incorporating google analytics is a great example since this type of add-on is already being used for this purpose and is becoming a handy tool for users and administrators. Implementation must be compatible with the software you are purchasing so make sure you ask for information previously.
Create reusable content and knowledge bases
Finally one of the most potential benefits for manual and contents is the fact that they can quickly become part of a knowledge base. Losing reinventing the wheel moments and best practices is a common symptom in enterprises where learning occurs only at certain levels and it is not widespread in company. By approaching manuals and guides as integral documents and not isolated information pieces, we can begin to structure our knowledge base.
In this sense, customer service areas or service desks, can also rely on this form of documentation to cut down costs and reduce tickets by empowering users to find relevant content and answers. By doing so, manuals and guides can form an integral part of documentation packs or content system which can be handed down to users in multiple formats so that content can be accessed on demand.
From the above we can clearly see the differences between just collecting guides and manuals as opposed to newer and more dynamic forms of developing and sharing this content. In general terms we are not only looking to impact the organization in order to increase productivity and reduce the risk of losing knowledge, but also create better ways to make content accessible.
We hope you find the approaches useful and that you start to put them in practice immediately!
Author Bio: Guest author Sameer Bhatia is founder & CEO of ProProfs, a leading provider of online learning tools for building, testing, and applying knowledge. ProProfs Knowledgebase Software is used to create highly-searchable online FAQ’s to improve customer service and reduce tickets. It helps centralize access to organizational files, documents and how-to articles ensuring they can be accessed across multiple devices and platforms. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.