The Usability Aspect in Documentation


How many of us refer to the trusty documentation on the Wi-Fi router before dialing customer service. I am guessing a unanimous NO! However, if the customers are not reading the manuals, it has got to have the tech support group which does. This in turn says a lot about the company's documentation.

Listed below are a couple of changes you can incorporated in the documentation process –

Discover what users are seeking
Why go for usability if nobody reads the manuals? What is the point? Instead customers should have asked on what they want. They should be contacted via a call / personal visit / email to gauge their needs. Alternately, questions at the end of a troubleshooting call are also a great option.

Concise Quick Reference Guides
How about trying to develop one-page manual; it is not always possible but the idea is to condense the guide to the minimal. Let us be honest nobody enjoys the sight of a huge multi-chapter manual. Concise guides get the user familiar with the basics of the system. It displays simplicity and as a result users feel the system is not quite difficult after all.

Visual Experience
Around 60% of the populace opts for visual learning. This stands true for documentation as well. Providing lengthy documents containing text is alright. However does it appeal to the end-user?
Efforts should have made to incorporate short duration videos to garner user attention and usability.

Searchable content
Almost all online help includes an inbuilt search engine. But quite often the search engine is not built taking the user terminology in to consideration. Users perform searches in their layman terms which are vastly different from what the engine is built on.

The challenge here is finding out the user jargons involved and incorporating them in the content of the manual, thereby optimizing search results.

Frustrated users
Whilst the user is flipping through the help content for an answer, he is also getting frustrated. Here the concept of the audience, writer and purpose should be utilized. Is the content focusing on the emotional quotient of the user? Does the help content boil down to the point and offer answers to the user questions promptly or does it go on and on about information, users already know?

Additionally, FAQs can be the default landing page when help is opened. Also, sticking to concise and easy to understand sentences improves the user experience.

It is much easier to follow the traditional approach of formulating extensive, plain text; unsearchable and needless content resulting in users reaching for their phones for support. However, in doing so, the usability redundancy factor still remains. Instead, follow the above principle and change the whole user experience.


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