Greg DeVore

By: Greg DeVore on November 18th, 2011

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The Hidden Power of an Online Manual

Software Documentation Tips | Documentation Managers

Do you answer yes to any of these questions?

  • Is your customer support group inundated with repetitive requests for the same information?
  • Are your employees clamoring to find out the details of your company’s new policies?
  • Do you need to efficiently and effectively train new clients on the use of your product?
  • Do you need to train your employees on the technology products you use to run your business?

Managing knowledge bases without an easy way for groups of people to access them can suck productivity out of your business. If your customers and employees are constantly scrambling to find the information they need you need to consider the hidden power of an online manual.

Online manuals centralize all of your pertinent data for specific groups. Whether it is a customer support manual, an employee handbook, a research guide, a lesson plan, an employee hiring test or a product tutorial guide, online manuals can solve your problems of distributing information to a large or small audience.

Compare this to what a lot of organizations are doing - locking their knowledge in PDF and Word files. Capturing your organization's knowledge in these formats makes that knowledge hard to access and hard to update.

But with online manuals you can provide the flexibility of instant access to the material your customers and employees need wherever they are and whenever they need it. If you have locked your knowledge in a PDF or Word file the user has to:

  • Find the file (probably hidden on your intranet somewhere or on someone's hard drive)
  • Download it
  • Start searching or navigating through it to find the information they need

The process is so painful that every business we talk to reports that almost no one in their organization reads the manuals they create as Word or PDF files. All that work waisted simply because the information is trapped in a document somewhere and not online.

Publishing new content to your knowledge base is an additional hidden benefit of using online manuals. If you have a new product to add to your tutorial guide or you have expanded your base of operations to include a new branch office, you can easily incorporate the new information into your online documentation.

And updates? Not a problem. Did you forget a step in your step-by-step online guide? You can easily update your guide information to clarify and improve your instructions. No more searching for the latest revision of the document or sending out emails to your entire company just so that they have the "latest" version of the PDF or Word file.

You can also make your online manuals more engaging. Adding many images to Word and PDF files can dramatically increase their size making it more difficult to deliver to users. But with online manuals you can easily [add images to clarify your documentation (especially if you are using a tool like ScreenSteps Live.

Online manuals are powerful tools for communicating crucial information with your customers and employees. So if your manual is gathering dust as it sits locked in a PDF or Word file it's time to move online. The ease of access, ease of use and increased productivity for you and your customers make it well worth the effort.

About Greg DeVore

CEO of ScreenSteps