In the previous post, we defined the documentation workflow for our writers and editors. With the functional parts of our system in place, our writers are all set to begin adding the content. In our Web Help Layout post we discussed the importance of information organization and the navigational aids available to the user to find the topics. Similarly, the Web Help with WordPress – What do we need? post discussed audience needs and other features of the Web Help. In this post we will look at some of the plugins that we can use to implement the features discussed in these earlier posts.

Top Menu

You can use the top menu to help the users navigate from your product Help to your corporate web site. This can also be helpful if you have multiple products and a separate Help for each product. For this navigational element you can use the WordPress Custom Menu option. All you need to do is create a custom menu and assign this menu as the Primary navigation on the Custom Menu page in WordPress.

WordPress Custom Menus

For example, you want the users to browse the separate documentation sets or allow them to navigate back to your company web site.


Breadcrumb Navigation

Although this might appear redundant if used in combination with a Table of Contents, this type of navigation is most helpful where the Help structure is deep and wide. For example, if your Help is divided in multiple modules. Similarly, if you have Help for multiple products and workflows spanning these products, the users may have to move from a topic in one product to a topic in another product. In such a scenario, the Table of Contents can provide information about the users position in the current product Help, whereas breadcrumb navigation can help the users understand their location in context of entire documentation set. For the purpose of this post series, we will use the Breadcrumb NavXT plugin. The plugin offer various options for the information that you want to include in the trail. To use the plugin you have to insert this code snippet in your header.php file.

The breadcrumb trail is displayed based on the location where you insert this code snippet: it can be just below the main navigation bar, or if you like, at the end of the topic. For example, I have placed the snippet at the end of the Header.php file so that the trail appears just below the main navigation menu.

Web Help with WordPress: Breadcrumb Navigation

Table of Contents

This might seem a bit old fashioned in the age of Search. However, if the content is organized according to users’ mental model, finding relevant content could be, at times, faster than searching the content. For our Help, we will use the Table of Content Creator plugin. The plugin comes with a number of display settings and a widget that you can place in your sidebar. As you can see, the topics are listed alphabetically.

Web Help with WordPress: Table of Contents

Tag Clouds

You can say that tag clouds are a replacement for index. One difference being that the frequency of the tags keep increasing the prominence of the tag in the cloud. With tag clouds, users can click on the term most relevant to their topics and view a topic or list of topics that are relevant to the term.

Web Help with WordPress: Tag Clouds

See Also

See Also links is one of the most valuable features of any user documentation. The links included are either different information types associated to the selected topic, or it could be conceptually adjoining tasks that the users will perform to achieve their goal. For this feature, we will use the Better Relate Posts plugin. The plugin shows a list of topic based on the criteria you define on the plugin’s Settings page. For example, if we select both Category and Tags as the basis for adding related content, the plugin will list the topics that belong to the same category and similar tags. The accuracy of displayed topics, of course, depends on how well you have categorized and tagged your topics. For example, with a procedure topic, the Related Content listed include links to other relevant procedures. You can see that the topics listed are not just procedural topics, but topics that discuss annotations in particular.

Web Help with WordPress: See Also Links

Similarly, for a reference topic, the Related Content shows links to other reference topics.

Web Help with WordPress: See Also Links

With navigational elements and layout, you have provided the user with multiple aids to find information. The users have Search to search for topics, tags to look at all relevant topics based on a key word, and the Table of Contents to browse the Help alphabetically. However, no matter how much you try, it is difficult to get it all right in one go. User feedback for documentation is as important as for the product to be useful to the user. In our next post we will look at some approaches to getting user feedback and some social media tools we can use to improve the documentation for the user.