Help Documentation

Here’s a Way for Training Teams to Gain Access to More Resources

One of the challenges technical communications teams are faced with is the need to constantly promote visibility. Tech comm suffers from lack of a “sexy” reputation. Unlike marketing or R&D, who are are natural candidates for the Rockstar shortlist, tech comm teams have to invest in making their contribution to the organization more present.

 

Much of this has to do with getting management to understand the importance of quality documentation, the amount of skill it requires and the importance of the craft.  So how can technical writing teams stay ahead of the curve in this shifting world when budgets are cut and every expense is weighted?

 

training teams gain access resources | stock cat and fish

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Write Better Help Documentation with These UX Tips

 

For a while now, there has been some attempt to reconcile the need for help documentation with the growing desire to improve product UX. True to Don Norman’s famous statement that “If you have to hang a sign on it, you’ve lost the battle”, many user experience professionals try to solve interface challenges using purely design solutions.

 

Today we know that product reality is more layered than that. Not everything can be solved through design alone, and almost nothing can be learned without any text. In a sense, we are no longer simply writing the support documentation – we are designing the support experience.

 

As part of that process, help documentation was brought out of its exile in forelone knowledgbases on the fringe of things and now resides in the heart of the user experience: in microlearning, onboarding flows, quick-tips, mouse-over tips, lightboxes and help widgets.

 

But we’re not quite there yet. There is still some way to go before the melding of help content and product UI is complete. I hope these UX insights and tools improve help documentation and user engagement with it.

 

ux tips for tech comm stock woman in front of color board

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Writing Help Documentation for New and Veteran Users

One of the challenges facing documentation writers since the beginning of software is the following dilemma: how to reconcile help content for first time users and veteran users? The working assumption being that first time users need to be taken by the hand and led throughout the product step-by-step, whereas veteran users are versed in the product and need to learn only advanced and new features.

 

Mark Baker, a long time technical communicator and content engineer, wrote extensively about this matter. He argues that users are no longer at the level of novice-ness that requires hand-holding documentation, and that software UI has improved to the point where users are protected from disaster by intelligent microcopy and careful UX.

 

We have the power to run sophisticated interfaces. Early electronics did not have the power to run fancy interfaces, to provide infinite levels of undo or to warn about any destructive actions before executing them. Interfaces used to be cryptic and dangerous because they ran on limited hardware. Now they are clear and safe because we have the computing power to make them clear and safe.

Mark Baker, Tech Comm’s Obsession with Novices has to Stop

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