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A Beginner’s Guide to Help Authoring

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To create help documentation is not an easy thing to do even for the most experienced technical writers. This documentation should be clear and precise, explaining every characteristic of the product you sell.

When writing this type of content, one must be careful – not all the readers have the same level of technical knowledge. On the other hand, the job doesn’t end when the content is written. When the writing is done, all one can see is a bunch of PDFs on the server. Choosing the right tool for knowledge base creation and management should also be considered, because it can greatly affect how your customers interact with the knowledge base.

Tips you should stick to when writing help documentation

#1 Stay away from complex phrases and technical vocabulary.

Even though you’re writing technical documentation, you don’t want the content to turn away your customers by being too abstract and confusing. Make sure to keep your sentences simple and the structure well-organized.

#2 Introduce practical examples.

Now imagine yourself looking for the explanations of some things you don’t understand. You’d probably want to see a working example that you can apply in order to get what you want.

Well, the situation with the consumers of your product isn’t any different. In other words, don’t hesitate to offer them some practical tips and examples rather than theoretical information presented in an unclear way.

#3 Enrich the content with graphics, charts, and illustrations.

In order to give a good example or present a specific topic in a precise way, you may need to use some visuals that will help the readers get the point easier. Anytime you feel like you should add an image, chances are that you should.

Pay special attention to statistics and charts that can be helpful for understanding. Make sure to use high-quality visuals that are relevant and accurate.

#4 Use the hyperlinks to make navigation easier for the customer.

Sometimes, the topics of different articles may overlap in a way. Whenever this happens, you should show the readers there’s another path to be followed, in case they are looking for a different perspective or a similar concept.

Some of the writers prefer adding these similar topics at the footers or on the side menus, but this can be distracting. It’s definitely more practical to hyperlink the relevant words in the body of the content – this way, they won’t have to look around for the information they need.

Help authoring tools to facilitate the creation of quality help documentation

In addition to these tips, if you want to bring the creation of help documentation to a higher level, you may want to use the help authoring tools.

There’s a wide variety of these tools on the market and they can make things really easy for you, letting you focus on the core of their tasks. A focused writer who isn’t overwhelmed with the technicalities more efficiently makes the thorough, accurate, and useful content.

Below, we’re showing you some of the most useful help authoring tools you should use if you want to provide your business with the perfect help documentation that will cover all of the topics that your customers may be interested in.

ProProfs

You aren’t interested in the creation of a blog, a wiki, or a FAQ page, and you prefer a comprehensive online software?  Being able to include different types of contents to the help documentation, ProProfs software that we’ve developed has proven as a great solution in a large number of cases. Being easy to use and completely adjustable, it allows you the creation of numerous types of user guides, manuals and other online documentation you need. The reason why most of the people opt for this platform is its convenience – you don’t have to download or install anything. It is a completely web-based platform that is also known as a great way of providing team collaboration, so it can make the creation of a useful help desk incredibly easy.

Help Cruiser

This tool is a great support for all of you who have just entered the world of help authoring. Help Cruiser makes it possible for you to create CHM, RTF Web Help and PDF documents with no effort. Additionally, it’s a great way of getting printed manuals based with WYSIWYG interface.

Doc-to-Help

Probably the fastest way of creating new help documents, Doc-to-Help will help you upload your Microsoft Word files to a help authoring platform. From there, you can send them on to PDF, CHM and RTF platforms, depending on your preferences.

As it works as a conversion utensil, you won’t have to bother adapting and modifying your work in order to use another tool.

Help Studio

If you are looking for attractive solutions for your help documentation, Help Studio may be incredibly useful. On one hand, you can use it to create both PDF and Web Help reports. On the other hand, it is probably one of the most popular translation programs.

Additionally, it can also be integrated with Visual Studio in order to provide you with the visually matchless documentation.

Helpinator

If you want your online documentation based on JavaHelp or OracleHelp templates, through the WordPress CMS, this tool will be an incredible help. Thanks to Helpinator, you can divide the written content into steps and include screenshots and images in your documentation, as well as annotations to them.

Conclusion

To sum up, if you are a beginner in the field of technical writing and want to create impressive help documentation, you are going to need certain skills as well as some useful tools.

Apart from preciseness and sense of relevance, before writing the help documentation, it is desirable having a strong knowledge base, and there’s no better way of building it than using a comprehensive knowledge base software. Once you’ve taken care of the necessary tools and adopted the tips we’ve provided you with, you’ll be on the right path to the creation of top-notch help documentation.

This guest post is courtesy of Robin. He is a Technical Support Executive. He is an expert in knowledge management and various Knowledge base tools. Currently, he is a resident knowledge management expert at ProProfs. In his free time, Robin enjoys reading and traveling.

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.
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