When was the last time you printed off a 45 pg. user manual for any sort of device or software associated with tools you use on a daily basis that are supposed to be simple? (Let’s be real – when have you ever printed off a 45 pg. user manual for anything in your life?). So why do companies still write them? Apparently the millennials haven’t started running their technical writing departments. Wait, a technical writing department? Who needs one of those – we just have to tell people how to perform the simple tasks they need to perform in super simple ways – all online.
So maybe let’s not call it a technical writing department (that sounds too “technical”).
This doesn’t mean that companies should stop documenting how their applications work – it just means they should be presenting this content to users in a better, more scalable way. Let’s take the maintenance of pdf guides as an example. These pdfs can end up being a branding nightmare. With outdated logos, fonts, screenshots, etc. Once versions become involved you have an entirely new problem – then they need post new documents to the support site that shows how to use the new version, take down the outdated version from the support site, it’s a very vicious cycle that never ends. With the rapid changes in technology – who has time for that? It’s a management nightmare and completely inefficient. It simply would make better sense to have a user experience product guru and a web developer team up to keep the content current and user friendly on the support site.
We also know there are always those old school cats that can’t let go of the paper copy… don’t worry. They can “print the page” and the site can be coded with a cute little print button. So companies that are having a hard time letting go of developing “documentation” need to remember that it’s time for a revolution. It’s time to move all the amazing user guide content to a web format that is searchable, trackable (so we know what people are actually using) and simple to follow. Oh – and by the way – all the content needs to be linked to similar topics and related content so you can easily navigate from one topic to another. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know and you have to start learning about one thing to figure out you really need to be learning about something else.
It’s time. Time to beef up online self-support. Write articles. Document FAQs, send those FAQs back to your product team so they can enhance the interface. Study the data on views and heat-maps and use that information to make your product better. There is a reason their care team receives 55 calls a day from users asking how to reset passwords. Apparently, this isn’t intuitive. Build an article – then fix the interface.
User guides might help to assemble your daughter’s tricycle, but shouldn’t be required it to learn how to toggle settings in a web portal. That should be a simple, online self-service support experience.