A few months ago we launched a survey to see what kind of impact ScreenSteps was having in the businesses and organizations that use it. We were interested in answering a few questions: Did our customers feel more productive? Did they feel like they were creating better documentation? Was ScreenSteps helping them improve their business or organization?
It’s time to put your product documentation on the web We have been telling companies for a long time that they need to move their product documentation out of PDF and Word files and onto the web. This has been true for awhile, but over the last 12 months we have seen the number of companies doing this start to increase. Here are a few reasons why it is more important than ever to move your product documentation to the web.
Your boss just told you, “We need to do some product documentation. Can you look into that?” It can seem like a simple task at first but quickly gets overwhelming. We speak with a lot of people who have just been given the task of recommending a documentation strategy for their product and they aren’t quite sure where to start. Hopefully this article will help you out a bit as you try to break the task down into manageable chunks.
Once your knowledge base moves beyond a few FAQs, you will quickly start wondering about how you should organize your B2B software knowledge base. Many companies still implement a very flat structure in an attempt to organize their knowledge base — which is just a list of articles with no hierarchy to them. If you take this approach, you're really just relying on the search feature of your knowledge base since that's the only way anyone is going to find anything. A flat structure will make it very difficult for your customers to browse your knowledge base.
One of the main problems growing B2B software companies have is determining who is going to write the documentation. Everyone knows it needs to get done. Everyone knows customers want it. Everyone knows it will improve customer support. But when it comes time to write the articles, everyone seems to respond, "Not me!"
This one simple tip will dramatically improve the effectiveness of your knowledge base articles: Make sure that your knowledge base article titles answer a question. An example will demonstrate why this is important.
1. Adapt for complex scenarios Some procedures are straightforward while other procedures include a lot of "if this, then that" situations. If your documentation needs to explain a complex procedure, make sure you account for all of those variations.
In his book The Checklist Manifesto - How to Get Things Right,"Atul Gawande showed us how simple it is to deal with complex processes, and consistently perform operations correctly. Just use a checklist. And we agree with him. If you want to increase productivity at work, you need to create checklists for how to accomplish tasks. This will not only serve as helpful reminders for you when you're performing tasks, but it also makes it a lot easier to delegate tasks and get consistently good results.
I've done a lot of service projects in my life, and I've found that about 80% of the time, way too many people show up. It's not that there isn't a lot of work to do, it's just that whoever is in charge isn't organized in a way that they can utilize all of the available resources - lots of manpower, little direction. In fact, it often turns into 15 people walking around watching the person we were supposed to be serving, doing all of the work! That's not very helpful. So when my brother Trevor and I accompanied a group to New Jersey to help out with the Hurricane Sandy cleanup effort, I was shocked by how well we were utilized! Our group of 128 was immediately put to work, and able to help those who desperately needed it within an hour of showing up. Our productivity was dramatically increased because the group we went with was organized.
We have been talking a lot lately about the importance of providing road maps for our customers. As we looked at our own customer education material we realized that while we offered a lot of documentation tips, we didn't have a clear guide that helped our customers establish and implement a successful documentation strategy. Some customers were able to piece together a complete strategy from the articles we produced, but to do so they had to bounce around to a lot of different places.