If you’re creating a web application or desktop software, it’s a good idea to invest time and money into fleshing out a help guide—documentation that will tell your users more about the app as they’re using it. Unfortunately, many development teams don’t account for this in their planning process, and they end up launching without adequate help documentation—and alienating an otherwise interested audience.
So why is it that help guides are so important, and how can you write better documentation?
The Importance of Documentation
These are just some of the biggest reasons why help guides are important:
- Proactively resolving issues
The most obvious functionality for help documentation is proactively resolving customer issues. With a good help document, customers will be empowered to learn about what they might be doing wrong, diverting them from calling or emailing customer service and giving them a faster answer to their concerns.
- Introducing extra features and functions
If a help guide is easy and interesting to use, customers can use it to discover new features in your app they might not have otherwise known about. This will increase perceptions of value, and keep users interested in the app.
- Increasing value and brand loyalty
Taking the time to create and perfect your help guides will increase customer sentiments toward your brand, thereby increasing brand loyalty. It shows that you’re interested in helping your users succeed, and can foster better relationships with your users. By contrast, if a frustrated user can’t find any answers, they may abandon you for a competitor.
- Search engine optimization
Creating good help documentation and making it available on the web can also have search engine optimization (SEO) benefits. More content with keywords related to your software will make your site more visible and more authoritative when users search for that content.
How to Write Better Documentation
Now let’s look at how you can write better documentation.
- Use the right tools
You can start by taking advantage of a tool like ClickHelp, which is designed to make it easier to write help guides for desktop software or web applications. You can migrate your existing content, if you have any, then edit, organize, and export that content into whatever forms you need to be successful.
- Be comprehensive, but start with the basics
Your help guide should end up as comprehensive as possible, covering every conceivable feature in your software and answers to any question a user might ask. But to start, you should write up the basics. Cover the most common features a new user might have and how to start using the app. You can always add more in-depth and niche content later.
- Write clearly and concisely
You’re not going to be writing help content for other developers; instead, you’ll be writing it for your user base, and it’s good to assume that they’ll have difficulty understanding complex technical topics. It’s also good to assume that they’ll be reading impatiently. Accordingly, the best content you can write will be clear and concise, packing as much meaning into the fewest, simplest words, and with minimal fluff to distract readers.
- Use images and video
Some people are natural visual learners, but most of us would agree it’s easier to understand a concept when it’s illustrated with images and videos than it is to read about the concept with words. This is especially true if you’re describing how to use software or a web app; try to include as many screenshots and videos as you can, complementing your written content.
- Interlink frequently
It’s a valuable strategy to interlink your help guide pages, especially if those pages are on the web, so you can maximize the SEO benefit. Essentially, this means providing links to pages of similar content or related content in the sides or bottom of each respective page. You may even have a section labeled “people also ask,” where you cover questions that are frequently asked in succession with one another.
- Get feedback—and put it to use
The last step is the most important, because it’s the only one that allows you to adapt to user responses. Collect feedback from users, asking them which pages they find helpful and asking them about topics that haven’t yet been covered in your guide documentation. Then, use that feedback to direct your changes and future efforts; it will result in more satisfied users.
With better help content available, your users will be better informed, they’ll be more loyal, and they’ll be more likely to keep using your app indefinitely. It takes a significant investment of time and/or money upfront, and continued investment to refine the quality of your help guide, but it’s worth the costs if it means higher user satisfaction and retention.