Starting a blog that supplements your online help or user documentation allows you to fill in any information gaps and has the added bonus of all Web 2.0 features. A blog also helps create a more approachable image, encouraging users to share grievances as well as positive experiences. This provides a wealth of customer data that is a goldmine in the hands of the right analysts. Interacting with your end users tells you what they want a second helping of, and what they rejected or voted out.
Online Help or user documentation has evolved a lot in recent years and communication among various users is now possible and easier with social media tools – integrated or outside the Help system. However, one persistent problem that is difficult to fix is to provide instructions tailored to each industry.
Subject Matter Experts interacting directly with users via blogs can help address this issue. Let’s see how –
Information for specific problems
As there is one documentation for all users, the instructions are either without examples or with examples from one specific industry. This limitation burdens the reader and the reader must fill in the gaps to apply the instructions to her specific situation. This may not be an issue for users experienced with the software.
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In the same way, certain analysis software have multiple options that are documented only at the field or option level. The user might want information about what options will work best for a specific situation. and blog about this so that other users from the same industry can refer to this content. Subject matter experts who have industry experience can help these users configure the right analysis parameters for their specific need.
Responding to Real-world Tasks
Novice users are often not sure of all the cognitive steps required to complete the entire task. However, this information is not included in the Help, and the Tutorials, again, are limited to one industry. Different experts from different industry backgrounds can write detailed posts without worrying about minimalism and help users overcome these information gaps. For example, this post on working with drawing symbols in Autodesk Inventor discusses drawing and inserting symbols into a drawing.
Online help would normally have individual documented tasks, such as Define a New Symbol, Create a symbol, Set Insertion and Connection Point and so on. However, this blog post presents the user with information on the entire process. Its like applying your user documentation to a particular use-case.
Communicate in the user’s language
User documentation is generic and created for a broad audience, addressing typical users. Your blog can be a platform to communicate to advanced users who are used to a certain lingo and will feel more comfortable communicating in jargon.
Unlike the online help, blog posts written by experts will attract the gurus or pros that use your software.
Going Beyond the Call of Duty
Bloggers can provide tips and additional information that is not part of the minimalist documentation. Although it is superfluous and may not have a place in the Help, this additional information can increase users’ efficiency. For example, a blogger from Autodesk shows how the users can use the Task Scheduler feature to create a custom group of tasks and automate things.
Maintaining a professional blog along with your Online Help can deliver a one-two punch that pleases both employees and customers. You provide an outlet to those employees who like to converse with users and solve their problems. You also take user assistance one step forward and provide custom solutions for each user.
Blogs are a two-way communication tool and there is no reason why small and medium businesses should keep this out of their user assistance solution.
Please let us know what communication challenges you face in providing information to your users. We will be glad to evaluate your requirements and create a solution suitable to your pocket and your customers’ information needs.