Producing effective technical content is the goal of every content professional in the technical communication niche, but the tools and processes to manage documentation are often expensive, complicated, and time-consuming to implement. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), with little expertise or resources to support technical content management, have had few options available to them. A small software development company based in Tula, Russia, Tulskiy Standart, is on a mission to change that with ClickHelp, its online help authoring and technical writing tool.
According to Nickolay Tupikov, the CEO of the company, “We are doing our best to offer easy-to-use and cost-effective solutions, which are important to technical writers in small and mid-size companies.” As a web-based authoring tool, ClickHelp leverages search engine optimization (SEO) and social media to make content delivered via its online documentation portal findable to a company’s users, and potential users. In addition to eliminating installation costs, ClickHelp can help companies with small budgets by hosting its customers’ documentation on its own servers, making the content available via a customizable online documentation portal.
“With the whole world being online, keeping your docs inaccessible from the web is not a good idea. The hidden potential of the documentation is increasing your brand visibility on the web, and providing a modern way to access the documentation for the end-users.”
The welcome interface provides wizard-based tools for setting up new documentation projects, administering users, importing existing documentation, applying branding, and publishing outputs. After initial setup, familiar menu-based tools allow authors to make changes to individual projects or to apply them globally.
ClickHelp offers a set of pre-built templates around different design themes that include basic elements used in help projects, such as start and TOC pages, tutorial topics, and reusable snippets. They are designed to support authors with limited knowledge of CSS and HTML.
The March 2014 release of ClickHelp, the company’s most recent, contains features and enhancements such as improved PDF and DOCX export for printed documentation. The documentation exporting capability combined with enhancements to the content management functions (e.g., conditional content, variables, content snippets, etc.) simplify the process of getting multiple varying outputs from a single source. The new release has also added the project statistics functionality to help technical writing teams better track their progress; and the Disqus commenting service integration to build a social network around the content.
The team began development work on ClickHelp in 2010, with scientific research in the area of the full-text search algorithms specifically tailored to support documentation and online help search. The company patented the resulting algorithm and implemented it as a part of the ClickHelp full-text searching functionality.
ClickHelp’s focus on web-based documentation has resulted in integration of search engine optimization (SEO) tools including human-readable URLs, script-free view for search engines, and meta tags support, as well as Google Analytics Integration, sitemaps and site verification functions for Google, Bing, and Yandex.
Nicolay also points out that “From the social side, we are integrating with AddThis not only to show the sharing buttons for the online documents, but also to link those buttons to your AddThis account. This way, you can track all the social stats in in one place.” In addition, authors now have the ability to embed video within topics.
The company plans a quarterly release schedule to implement its product roadmap. According to Nicolay, “development is something that never ends for a live product, and we keep working to add even more functions to ClickHelp with every release.”
Currently ClickHelp is limited to a hosted solution, with licensing starting at $10 per month/per author. An on-premise solution is under consideration, and development is underway for mobile device support for authoring and reading content. ClickHelp also plans to provide support for structured authoring (DITA, XML) and additional translation workflows, and will extend the flexibility of its permission system to provide authoring permissions and access controlled at the project level, rather than the global level.
ClickHelp offers a fully functional 30-day trial that allows authors to set up a portal and create documentation quickly and easily. To find out more visit http://clickhelp.co/online-help-authoring-tool-free-trial/