Over the last several years, many companies have embraced an “intelligent content” strategy. While applications vary from industry to industry and from company to company, this approach to content creation is generally defined as being structurally rich and semantically organized.

For companies with numerous product lines, multiple target markets, and overall complex product documentation needs, the shift towards intelligent content is clearly a step in the right direction – regardless of whether they are using DITA, HTML or proprietary solutions (e.g. Framemaker, Flare, etc.). Not only does it dramatically reduce development, review, translation and maintenance costs, but it is a major win for technical writers who can invest their time adding value – and less time rewriting content.

However, despite the structure and production-related benefits of adopting an intelligent content strategy, many companies are running into an unexpected obstacle: their content is broken! That is, users (e.g. prospective and current customers) cannot search across all content to get the answers they need. At best, they receive results that are inaccurate or incomplete. At worst, they receive nothing at all.

The irony is that technical writers are working hard at creating amazing content. But as noted, users cannot easily search across this content – or search it at all. As such, they’re left with unanswered questions, unmet expectations, and a less-than-ideal impression of a company that they’re thinking of doing business with; or perhaps, one that they’re suddenly thinking of leaving behind.

Despite how serious and common this problem is, the solution is neither complex nor costly. Companies simply need to map their intelligent content to what can be called an “intelligent documentation portal”, which is an innovative tool that:

  • Enables effortless search across all content, so that users can quickly get the information they need – and companies can just as rapidly make a positive impression.
  • Leverages the power of structured content, so that users consistently get accurate, complete information.
  • Improves the user experience with elements like live filtering and search result previews.
  • Provides robust context-sensitive help (CSH) with unbreakable links based on keywords and facets.
  • Automatically indexes to search engines, so that users can find the authorized information they want via Google, and not just through the company website.
  • Supports rapid one-click publication of both new and updated content.
  • Allows technical writers, SMEs and other authorized stakeholders to add comments, tables or images into documents, as well as leave comments and debate changes before changes are implemented.
  • Lets users rate and submit feedback on any topic, which can be responded to by any SME.
  • Gives users the option of an automated and faceted search for a solution before opening a support case, which supports case deflection and reduces time-to-resolution.
  • Can be fully customized (e.g. logos, branding, fonts, graphics, colors, UX, other design elements, etc.), so that users feel that they’re still within the company’s branding ecosystem and not on a separate portal.

The Bottom Line

Intelligent content is a valuable and vital product documentation strategy – but it’s not the full story. To truly unleash the potential of intelligent content and achieve measurable business benefits – including more satisfied and loyal customers, more valuable brand equity and, of course, more sales and profits – companies need to implement an intelligent self-service portal. It’s the missing part of the intelligent content equation, and prevents amazing content from “breaking” before it reaches users.

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