Your customers rely on your software help and support content to ensure they can actually use your software. But what happens when your support documentation doesn’t support anyone?
Unfortunately, this often means unnecessary calls to your tech support department, angry and frustrated customers, and users who might actually decide to buy from a competitor.
But great support content – especially videos – can be a game changer for your customers and your business! Increasingly, users want self-service content that can help them do what they need to do without waiting or waiting for their chat bot to respond to the query.
Your software support content can delight users and create customers for life.
But how do you ensure your content fits the bill?
Here are five proven ways to create help content that’s not only useful, but great.
Keep reading to find out…
5 ways to improve your help content
A help author’s job is to simplify complex topics: to structure high- and low-level information in a way that is easy to discover and digest.
In practical terms, if you can explain concepts in plain language with task-based steps, you are on your way to developing good help. If the task is a process that involves more than a handful of steps, it is better to break the task into smaller pieces of tasks.
Include a high-level process overview at the top of each topic to explain how task sets work in the larger process. At this point, users can identify which part of the process they are stuck on or what they are interested in and navigate to the low-level information they need. As a writer, this process of outlining the process is also useful because it reveals gaps or gaps you may have in your task-based documentation.
1. Start with the video
Of all the ways to provide great help content, giant walls of text are probably the least useful. Research shows that people don’t just prefer video and visual content – they actually perform better when provided. They even remember it longer! It is literally a win-win.
When your users can see how to accomplish tasks, they more quickly understand what they need to do.
Keep in mind, though, that not all your users will be able to consume your visual and video content in the same way. Always create content with accessibility for users with disabilities in mind. All images must include alt text and all videos must include an audio description and captions.
2. Give your users the content they need, not what you think they should know.
This might seem counterintuitive, but while no one knows your products like you do, no one knows what customers need better than the customers themselves.
We often get so caught up in wanting to showcase cool features and other features that we forget that most of our customers are likely to use a small subset of a software application’s features and capabilities.
And that’s okay!
You can create content that speaks to more advanced users or showcase your favorite new features, but don’t forget about the average user and their common problems. Show them the basics of using your software and how to navigate your user interface. Help them get off to a good start, and then—maybe—they’ll look for more advanced use cases.
So how do you know what content your customers need? The easiest way is to just ask them! Surveys, roundtables and customer interviews are a great way to learn how your customers use your software and what they struggle with. And, I guarantee you will learn things you never thought about.
Most companies can also collect valuable data from the software itself, such as which tools are most popular, which output types most users prefer, and much more!
3. Choose user-oriented language
Generally speaking, be concise and write in an active voice. Use words and phrases that users search for, not terms a developer used to describe the thing to you.
Remember your audience. If you have data to help you understand how your audience talks about your product, use it to inform your terminology decisions.
Even if your product is complex and technical, your help doesn’t have to be. Split it up and decode it for your readers. Use conversational, controlled language. They will appreciate it.
To learn more about writing in the active voice, check out this writing resource published by Duke University.
4. Optimize for search engines
Good help content appears whenever and wherever you search for it. Sometimes that means in a product, and other times it means on the web.
If your users open Google to search for answers, you want them to find your help, as you are the authority (or would like to be).
If they open an internal search on the site, you still want the right article to appear at the top of the results. That means you need to pay attention to how search engines catalog and rank pages and write your help articles with that in mind.
Whether your output is a PDF or a webpage, there are things you can do to optimize your pages for search.
5. Cross-reference of related articles and resources
If your topic has related support articles, blog posts, or tutorials, it’s a good idea to cross-reference them on your page.
Often these other resources approach the subject a little differently or provide a more technical or instructive perspective, which can help a user succeed.
Better help = happier customers
So whether you’re on a customer support team, a content marketer, or someone in between, these tips will help you produce help content that makes users more successful.
To learn more about how to improve your help content with great visuals, check out 10 Ways to Create Better Visuals for Your Tech Guide.