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What Every Online Documentation Tool Should be Able to Do

Posted by
Anastasia in ClickHelp Features on 12/21/20184 min read

Superdog

There was a time when technical writers created documentation in text editors and sent it via email. Those were the dark times. Frustration and low efficiency surrounded the work process. But then online documentation tools appeared. They were designed to make lives of technical writers easier and so they did! The tech writing game is changing and so do help authoring tools. In this post, we will talk about what any online documentation tool should be able to do to meet the requirements of the modern technical writing process.

Problem - creating various versions of the same user manuals takes a lot of time and effort; even if the changes are few, you still need to scan the whole project to make sure every bit of it is updated.

Solution - considering the fact that most user manuals require regular updates, we believe that single-sourcing is a must have for an online documentation tool. What it does is it allows you to create varied outputs based on the same content.

In ClickHelp, single-sourcing techniques include content snippets, variables, conditional content blocks, conditional TOC, output tags. We want to be sure that creating a new version of your user manual takes as little time as possible, so, we made your content reusable. In addition to this, you don't need to worry about accidentally forgetting to upgrade your product version somewhere anymore - as long as you are taking advantage of the single-sourcing functionality, everything updates automatically.

Problem - the team workflow is flawed, documents get lost and mixed up.

Team working

Solution - to help you organize workflow right, an online documentation tool should support collaboration and be flexible about it. For example, ClickHelp can be configured to match your specific workflow. Or, if you are looking for a fresh and easy way to work on documentation in a team, you can simply use the basic work scheme we offer.

Teamwork in ClickHelp means a couple of things. First, there are user roles and permissions. Assigning a role to every person on a project helps create some wholesome workflow. Each role comes with a set of permissions which means that no confusion will be caused. For example, a reviewer role can mean that a person is only allowed to suggest edits, but not change the actual content.

Another thing that can really simplify help authoring in a team is assigning topic statuses. You can use default or create custom filters to sort out all topics by their status. Besides that, in ClickHelp, topics are locked automatically when somebody is working on them - yet one more way to avoid confusion.

Problem - poor control over the work process and final output quality. Reports are not flexible and don't provide enough information. Metrics are too varied to make general conclusions based on them.

Solution - every help authoring tool should be able to gather relevant metrics that can be easily fine tuned with filters and interpreted later. In ClickHelp, you can use the powerful built-in metrics tool, and, also, use Google Analytics as your primary source of statistics. Even if you are more used to Google Analytics, we would advise giving the ClickHelp's functionality a shot as it was developed with specific needs of technical writers in mind. It offers many options for filtering topics (by status, by owner, by assignee, by date, etc.). You can check data for any particular project or the whole documentation portal for a specified time period. Also, in ClickHelp, you can create custom filters for your specific needs using Filter Builder.

Problem - technical documentation is poorly designed, which causes readability issues and harms the brand reputation.

Design icons

Solution - readability can suffer due to poor color scheme choices, questionable fonts, and document layouts. Documentation design is often overlooked as a task, so designers are almost never allocated properly. The easy solution is to have ready documentation templates at hand that have been designed by professionals with specifics of user manuals in mind.

ClickHelp provides free documentation templates that can even work for different types of documentation - we have special design solutions for API user manuals.

But, what if you need to change something in a ready template in order to match your corporate style? Well, our online documentation tool offers a lot of branding possibilities, and you can rework any default template according to your needs.

Conclusion

So this is our take on the functionality every HAT should have to provide tech writers with a better help authoring experience. If you have any other essential features in mind, feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below!

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

 

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