5 Approaches To Write “How To” Guides With Help Authoring Tools

“How To” documentation has been with us ever since help documents first appeared. The syntax of the title comes very natural and all industries adopted it as one of the main standards in technical writing. While the writing of “How To” documents was kind of a uniformed process in the past, today with access to online help authoring tools it is not quite so.

Help authoring software brings diversity to this process and allows technical writers to create a helpful environment offering delightful user experience to anyone who visits it seeking help. In order to bring this software closer to you, we have compiled a list of five different approaches to writing “How To” guides with these software tools.

Traditional Approach

The traditional approach is still very popular today. Technical writers have to get involved as early as they can in the product and/or service development process to get a complete insight into its features and capabilities. All the data gathered by the moment when a prototype or alpha version comes out can be used to write, in great detail, every “How To” guide about the product or service in question.

This, of course, has to be done with all the tasks users will be performing with a product or service in mind. Once the product or service launches, technical writers move to another project.

Help authoring software offers a great deal of help to technical writers and companies that still value this type of approach. They can use software on the go while going from department to department to create documents. Since this software is mobile ready and has a simple user interface, it is really easy to understand how it works and to start using it as soon as it lands in a technical writer’s hands.

Some of the features which traditional technical writers will find useful is a revision history of documents, which ensures that none of the data gets lost in the process of document creation. And, of course, the feature that allows consolidation of all documents in one knowledge base. “How To” guides can be published online or as a ready-for-printing PDF and eBook.

Post-Release Approach

The post-release approach is a modern one. Unlike the traditional approach, the writing in this one is done after the product or service has been released. Technical writers use the product and service documentation to cover all the instances users might be using the product and service in.

The process of writing documentation doesn’t end there. Technical writers stay on their toes looking for all incoming feedback, questions and requests of users. After this, the data gets cross referenced with the data gathered by the customer support department. After a technical writer has access to all possible feedback, the “How To” guides get created with all of the abovementioned in mind, of course.

The most complete online help authoring software allows users to perform searches and stores all kinds of data about customer/visitor behavior. With this tool, companies have access to frequently performed searches, and the most and least accessed “How To” guides. Add user feedback to this and you have a tool that enables you to write the most complete “How To” guides so far.

Utilize Context Sensitive Help

There are help authoring software vendors who have built-in context sensitive help support in their software solution. This extension to “How To” guides was unavailable until some of the modern web technologies emerged. Now, technical writers can interlink the entire help documentation database and enable it to offer a great customer experience.

When writing a help guide by using help authoring software, you can use tooltips, light boxes and pop-ups. This is a unique way to offer additional help to customers in the moments when they actually need it.

When writing “How To” guides, you can attach additional information via context sensitive help whenever there is a complicated or technical term an average customer might not understand. By doing so, you will enable your customers to stay in the document and solve their problem without the need to open new tabs and search for further help and explanations.

“How To” Guides as Team Effort

It is not a secret that the most complete and helpful “How To” guides come as team effort result. This is why you can see the biggest players in the industries having entire teams of technical writers, product and service designers, and customer support agents working on one single document.

By doing so, companies ensure to offer the most complete help documents to their customers. The documents which will not only help users solve an issue at hand, but also make them feel appreciated and valued.

With help authoring software this is easily achieved. Team collaboration is streamlined with user access control management. Everyone on the team can be assigned different privileges and rights. Systems in place protect the documents from being overwritten and any data being lost in the process.

Plus, all of this can be done from a remote destination without the need for time-consuming meetings. Everything is in the cloud for both the company’s employees and customers’ convenience.

Writing with SEO in Mind

SEO has become a huge deal with the rising popularity of search engines. Traditional help documentation writing did not pay attention to it, but today’s options practically have to. Modern help authoring tools allow integration with Google Analytics and empower content creators with automatic sitemap and meta tag support.

By following specific keyword trends and using those keywords in your help documents, you will ensure that your online “How To” guides get indexed by search engines. By showing up in search inquiries, you can extend your helping hand to prospects. This way you can generate more leads and increasing conversion rates, thus ensuring your company’s success on the market.

All of these five approaches are viable when writing “How To” guides. Using online help authoring software will streamline the entire process for you, while making a delightful experience for your customers.

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