Software Documentation in the SaaS World

Posted by
Anastasia in Technical Writing on 11/11/20205 min read

code on the laptop screen

This is the era of SaaS. The idea of software has changed a lot for the past I'd say ten years. Sure, we still install software on our PC's and laptops, but we tend to use services much more: Google Mail, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube - we all enjoy them every day. This means that technical writers in the IT industry were pushed to change, too. Although we are still talking about a pretty similar development experience, it is not exactly the same. Let's take a look at what changed in the technical writing process when the world moved to SaaS.

Crazy Release Schedule

Obviously, even technical writers creating user manuals for classic on-premise software needed to speed up. Agile processes dictate that a new release appears as quickly as possible. It can be once a month, once in two weeks, or faster. SaaS tools can get updates daily. Releases are mushrooming, and documentation teams have to reorganize their work to be able to deliver documentation timely. How can this be achieved? The key to success is building efficient collaboration and teamwork. Your help authoring tool needs to allow flexibility when it comes to document workflow and review processes. The mindset should shift towards this new agile SaaS model. You need to seek out opportunities of reusing content more - this allows updating user manuals much faster. Here's a good article on reusing content.

Moreover, technical documentation has gone online, which allows tech writers to speed up the publishing process drastically. For SaaS services, it is natural - online tools have online documentation. PDF isn’t the best solution here. Another aspect is that earlier vendors had to publish a lot of release documentation at once. That was complex when they had hundreds or thousands of topics that needed to be ready at once. Now, you can publish and update just a handful of topics instead of generating a whole new documentation package. It is possible first to update just the most popular topics (based on the popularity statistics) and later on, after the release, to get back to the rest of them. The right help authoring tool will help you do all that. On top of that, documentation tools like ClickHelp offer the Conditional Content feature that allows creating different versions of documentation from the same source project: user docs, admin docs, partner docs, etc. With frequent releases and the lack of time, this helps technical writers update more user guides faster.

woman in a white sweater and a laptop

More Integration

Today, the word 'integration' has a special meaning. Even SaaS tools and services had to learn how to integrate with each other. As for technical documentation, it definitely should be integrated with the SaaS service it describes. The most common solution is that particular pages of your product may contain hyperlinks to specific docs to help users get the relevant information right away. If you have context help popups or assistant panels - that is even better. But what you also have to pay attention to is what your technical documentation looks like: when your docs are integrated with your SaaS software, users expect them to look like a part of the service they are using. It is natural - design, layout, colors, fonts - all that matters. Pay attention to these aspects to create a seamless experience between your cloud product and your documentation pages.

As I have already mentioned, there may be documentation for different audiences - end-users, developers, partners, etc. These may be totally different, and one audience should not have access to all these user guides. This is another good integration point between a SaaS product and your documentation system. Your SaaS service “knows” who the current user is based on their profile, and it can show different documentation links for different audiences, this is good. But if you’d like to protect your online documentation based on the audience, authentication should also be integrated. People who log in to your system should automatically get access to the user guides, based on their role and profile information. The Single Sign-On (SSO) technology may be very handy in this case:

  • You can limit the users’ access to documentation and show them just the online guides they are supposed to read. Those manuals that are not meant for particular types of users may only puzzle them.
  • SSO will provide users with a clear authorization process. If users are authorized in your product, they will automatically be authorized in your documentation portal.

If you’d like to understand how SSO works, read this article - it explains the technology nicely: How Single Sign On Works - Explained.

SaaS Downtime

SaaS solutions have a lot of advantages when it comes to maintenance. The biggest one is that you do not have to deal with updates at all. Vendors will do that for you. You get back to your SaaS tool and see that it has been updated and is ready for work - that’s it. No installation, no downloading. The question appears - should technical documents be hosted separately from your cloud solution? Indeed, that makes a lot of sense and can help you decrease downtime for documentation. While your SaaS service is off for maintenance, your online documentation will still be available and may even have a notification bar about the maintenance work.

neon keyboard

Conclusion

Once you start working on a SaaS documentation project, you will understand that the right tools are absolutely necessary. The ClickHelp Team has been building a solution for tech writers to apply in many spheres of software documentation. And, creating SaaS documentation is one of the tasks our help authoring tool does perfectly. It will give you the opportunity to perfect your workflow by leveraging the teamwork and collaboration features it provides. You will be able to host your docs inside your cloud ClickHelp portal granting readers access via SSO. Being a tech writer in a SaaS project might be overwhelming, especially if you are coming from the on-premise software background. But if you put your mind to it and pick the right instruments, you'll set the project on its path to success.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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