3 Things to Consider When Developing End-User Help and Support Content

cartoon drawing of man at computer surrounded by tech icons

Gone are the days of the 190-page user manuals explaining how to configure and modify every toggle button or setting included with your product or service. Today’s users need information quickly in bite-sized pieces that they can easily find. They are savvy and fast – they are used to using YouTube videos or doing quick Google searches to get the information they are looking for. Therefore – the experience your users have when searching for, and using your help/support content should be similar. Build your content and deliver that content to them with the same ease of use, bite-sized approach. Here are three things to consider before diving in:

The audience is a customer – not a prospect.

Cut out the salesy-marketing stuff. They have already bought your product and end-users are just trying to figure out how to use it. Don’t waste their time by explaining how great it is and how much time or money it will save them. By forcing them to listen to or read that content – you have already wasted a few seconds or minutes of their time.

Keep it short.

It’s likely that part of the value proposition of your product or service is “ease of use.” If so – then dumping pages and pages or hours and hours of training and help/support content on them is somewhat contradictive. How can it be that easy if you need to spend a day learning how to use it? Write with an active voice when possible and remember you are giving instructions, not telling a story. Fewer words are more powerful. For example, try to avoid statements like: “simply click here.” Clicking is actually a quite simple task – no need to describe it. Change those instructions to “Click here.” If you’re building a library of quick reference guides – remember they should be quick. There is nothing quick about a 7-page document, try to get these to 1-2 pages. When developing video content – your topics should be less than 2 minutes. If you can’t get cut it down to that, then consider making a short video series.

How and where are they going to get to it?

Whether you are starting to build this content for the first time, or converting a set of existing documents and manuals – determining where your users will find this information is key. Do you need it locked behind a password-protected site? Can they get to it from your Support page? Can they perform a search on your support page? If you are providing a web-based service, can you integrate the help experience into your product or service? Who will maintain this content once it is built? How often does it need to be updated? Are you working cross-functionally with your support teams to integrate current end-user support issues into your content to alleviate existing challenges that end users might have? These are all important questions to ask before diving in. It drives not only what you are building (quick start guides, on-line help pages, videos.. etc.) but it drives how you will build and maintain it.

Remember that your user’s experience goes beyond using your product or service. It includes their experiences when they don’t know how to use it, have questions, or just want to forward some quick instructions to a friend or co-worker. If you consider these three things when building this content – you are sure to enhance your user’s experience with your product and build something that scales.