5 best practices that ensure product documentation leads to end-user productivity
Observing the technology landscape, it seems there is a new digital solution in the market one after another. And a common selling point is helping companies reduce costs—either by automating monotonous tasks, streamlining processes, or improving overall work flows, to make time for more important things. But there is more than just choosing the right technology, and that is using it in a way that truly benefits the end-users both within and outside the organization.
This is why, considering the bigger picture, even with the rapid technological advances there has been a dramatic dip in American productivity growth since 2000. Going from an annual growth rate of 0.70% in 1990s to 0.39% in the 2000s, the same trend has been observed in other countries such as Norway and Britain. The abundance of articles, apps, books, and tutorials on productivity hacks might be related to this.
As technical writers working behind the scenes, it is easy to be disconnected from what end-users expect from product documentation. This results in hard work going down the drain and your users’ time and effort going to waste. When in fact, with the right technology in place—that is, a dynamic product documentation portal—product documentation can be a great tool that increases your and your users’ productivity. Here are best practices for developing a successful product documentation:
- Be comprehensive but relevant. Most of the time, the users ending up in your product documentation has a mission, and that is to solve a problem. Your task is to help reduce the number of hours users spend looking for solutions. And you can do this by ensuring that the contents are specific, consistent, and updated. It also helps if your portal has elements like live filtering and search result previews, allowing them to have a quick look and cross reference to similar contents.
- Ensure accessibility. More than anything, one of the things that users value is convenience. To help them increase their productivity, automatically index your contents to search engines, so that users can find the authorized information they want via Google, and not just through the company website. And when your users are already in your product documentation platform, make sure they can effortless search across all contents, so that they can quickly get the information they need. Do this both for web and mobile.
- Make it a group effort. Your current technical contents and the next ones are always going to be products of at least two individuals. Collaboration (especially among technical writers, subject matter experts, and other relevant stakeholders) facilitates usability of documentation portal because it makes publishing faster and more reliable. Make sure your portal allows easy feedback and sharing to allow easy follow ups with end-users. Of equal importance, ensure you have a template that systematically processes comments, tables, or images commented into documents before implementation.
- Track and improve. Product documentation is a live process, and this means the contents are constantly developed, updated, and released. Setting up an analytics feature in your product documentation platform enables you not only to monitor and increase user traffic, but also to continuously improve what you currently have—toward the goal of enhancing user productivity, experience, and engagement. Because the better and faster you address the problems your end-users have when trying to find answers, there is a higher possibility that they are going to reference your documentation, putting your hard work to good use.
- Keep it all in one place. Having all your product documents in one place makes it easier for all users to access information, track updates, and implement changes. Allow support for rapid one-click publication of both new and updated content, and easily tag and index your content written in Flare, DITA, XML, Office, or any other formats. Being streamlined and transparent allows you to better identify the right solutions to increase efficiency, user satisfaction, and the overall documentation portal usability.
When it comes to helping users increase their productivity, the key is to be convenient and relevant for them. A dynamic product documentation portal is already a powerful technology tool, and by putting yourself in your end-users’ shoes, you can ultimately help them benefit from it. Who knows, you might help raise the productivity level of the country in the long run.
Zoomin’s dynamic knowledge portal extends the reach of product documentation libraries by giving customers easy, personalized access to the answers they need—from any device, whenever they want, and from any location. Zoomin moves your content from a static collection of documents, to a dynamic world of answers. Learn more by scheduling your guided demo.