Help Content (Topics) Template

Editors Note: This Help Content (Topics) template is one in a series of templates to help readers plan and manage communications and content management activities, resources and deliverables. We welcome ideas and suggestions for other Template Tuesday materials.

Template TuesdayDefinition:

The Help Content template assists in creating the three basic types of help content—concept, task, and reference-—and streamlines the process of organizing content logically and meaningfully for your readers. Depending on the content approach (traditional book-based content or topic-based structured content), Concept, Task, and Reference Topics can be combined or reused to create a range of outputs.

 Purpose:

Help content is designed to help users (may be highly technical and complex or relatively simple information on using a product or service or customers, readers, or team members) accomplish specific goals such as learning about a subject, or how best to perform an activity. Product development methodologies (such as Agile)and content management approaches (including DITA) have resulted in variants on these base help content types, but overall, content professionals generally agrees that some specifications help to set expectations and logic for readers. This template provides basic guidance, examples, and placeholders for creating concept, task, and reference content. For book-style outputs these content types can be used to organize the overall document with a beginning (concept), middle (task), and end (reference).  These content types foster best practices for producing clear, comprehensive and concise content that is optimized for reuse and translation.

Relevance:

Help content should be easy to follow and provide specific guidance for readers, which includes introducing tasks and providing steps to follow within a procedure. Readers now access information on multiple devices with various screen sizes, and they have many options to search for information. By organizing and planning content into types, authors simplify the results for readers who can quickly scan information and determine what is useful and relevant to them.

The document template includes explanations of each type of help content and content placeholders (with examples) that you can replace with your own content. You can import Word documents using this template into most major help authoring tools.

Using the Template:

  1. Download the Help Topics Template in MS Word.
  2. Review the definitions for each type of content.
  3. Determine the information the read needs to learn (concept), do (task), and refer to (reference).
  4. Organize the content into logical, related sections and/or steps.
  5. Gather and/or design related graphics, screen shots, and links.
  6. Validate the information with subject matter experts (SMEs) and stakeholders.
  7. Customize the placeholder content areas with a draft of your help content.
  8. Sent the draft for review.
  9. Edit based on feedback.
  10. Determine and set the format and publishing outputs.
  11. Publish the content.

We recommend downloading the Documentation Plan, and the Documentation Review Checklist templates to assist in managing your help content project.

Related Articles:

Getting Started with Topic-based Writing

Do you have other templates that work well for the products or services you support? Are you in an Agile development environment and have tools for creating user assistance that aligns with Sprints? Feel free to contact us and submit your templates. We’ll provide credit to you for assisting the TechWhirl community and contributing to Template Tuesdays.

Jill Parman

Jill is the owner of ForWord Consulting, LLC, which provides instructional design, technical communication, and business analysis services. She is a master of useless trivia, has a slight obsession with Pilot fine tip pens, and spends her free time chasing around a toddler and two dogs.

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