Session Summary: Integrating Help, Support, and Training Content

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Presenter:  Paul Mueller, UserAid

Where do you go to find answers?  Google?  Yeah, so does everyone else (including your users).  Paul Mueller of UserAid knows this fact and stressed the need for a one-stop-shop approach for help content in his talk at WritersUA.  “Users only want to go to one place to find answers,” said Mueller.  A common approach to having your help content be “Google-able” is to take the help files and throw them up on the web so that users can find them through a Google search.  But why should the user have to figure out where to find the info they need and sort through it all? Furthermore, it becomes problematic to have your help content files jumbled up with tech support content or content from outside sources, which could dilute your brand.  Mueller cautioned against this approach because “customers can feel you don’t provide the support they need.”  He advises those in technical communications content development to keep the help content and tech support content integrated to avoid duplications, contradictions, and extra maintenance.

Tie it all together

Mueller’s strategy is to link to the training content directly in the help – that way users can simply open one webpage that has everything they would need.  “You decide what your customers need and deliver it in one integrated solution.”

Mueller strongly recommends using WordPress to create & maintain your “Answer Station” or “Help Center,” for these reasons:

  • Free, flexible content management system (can host a blog, website, social networking site)
  • Lot of free plugins
  • Easy to customize and maintain
  • Good SEO support
  • Automated content listing, sorting, categorizing
  • Allows user to comment/augment content
  • Lots of customizable themes (Free, for purchase, or Framework – like Thesis)
  • Allows you to use RSS feeds, so users are in control of how they receive notifications of changes (such as release notes).

According to Mueller, “Your help solution needs to be integrated with Google Custom Search and Google Analytics.”  A Google custom search  can internally search the support site, the help content, and the marketing site, for example.  “People search for things by copying and pasting the text of the error message into the search bar and hitting enter.  So if you make the article title the same as the error message title, it’ll be the first hit and come up first.”

Google Analytics allows you to look at statistics in the following areas (and more): Site traffic, length of site visit, and bounce rate – the amount of time users are on each page of the website (the registration page, the confirmation page, etc.) These stats allow you to evaluate the help content use and maintenance priorities in your technical communications planning.

He presented  the Learning Center at support.smartvault.com as an example of a perfectly integrated help system.  This site had everything on one landing page – KB articles, tutorial and training videos, getting started guides and user guides, comprehensive online help, service status, support plans and policies, scheduling a live training, and contact information.  It fully integrated using WordPress and had a customizable Google search that searched across all pages.

Lauren Hart

Lauren Hart is currently working as a Technical Writer for a Software Development company called 2Is Inc. (www.2is-inc.com) in Boston, MA. She previously worked for a university doing technology strategy proposal writing, and in corporate banking writing policies and procedures. Her interests include; content strategy, user assistance, user interface design, usability testing, and emerging technologies in Technical Communications. She also writes a tech comm blog at http://www.writeeditrepeatblog.wordpress.com and is a member of STC. The upcoming Writers UA event will be the first conference of its kind that she has attended. Since she is new to software UA, she is eager to learn and share ideas with the software UA community.

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