The Importance of Fun/Easy Documentation & Training

As more and more social platforms are launched within the enterprise, the focus on training new users and answering their questions.frustrations becomes even more important.  New technology is great…but if users figure out or find answers to their questions, it will be quickly left behind and they will continue to use what they are comfortable with (read: e-mail).

In my role, I have had an opportunity to test a number of start-ups and existing companies social media platforms.  You would think that a blog is a blog is a blog but each vendor has a different slant or an additional piece added on to add value.  That is all fine but some neglect to document how to use it.  Quite frankly, I have found the smaller companies to have more robust documentation (I know it’s a generalization) than the bigger ones.  Anyway, here are some of my suggestions on how to approach you documentation:

  1. Have Documentation: I know this should go without saying, but there are vendors out there who do no have documentation, it is not yet available, or it is only availablle to their clients.  Without the documentation, people might not be able to see the value you are selling.
  2. Don’t rely 100% on your users: I agree it is a great idea to let your users define/create your documentation on a wiki (as they will know what other users want), but give them something or a skeleton to work with.  I have been to a number of product documentation/wiki pages that the vendor has setup a table of contents and has told the community – document away.  It is extremely frustrating to see the topic in the table of contents (when you are stuck or having a problem), only to find a blank page.  Your product is not ready to ship until you have completed your documentation (among other things).
  3. Different learning styles: Not everyone learns the same.  As an example, in 4MAT they have four types of learners:  Imaginative, Analytic, Common Sense and Dynamic.  Hey, I am not saying go and spend half your budget on learning, but when people understand how to use it, they are more apt to use it.
  4. Available Demos: Taking a cue from the point above, give us some visual demos (both written and video).  This is the era of YouTube.  Create some video demos so users can see how it is done.  Make the content not only available on your website, but post it on YouTube (where you can take advantage of comment and number of views stats).  You can also see who else is filming your product.
  5. Die pdf, Die!: Don;t ever, ever, ever put your documentation in one big pdf file.  It is ugly, hard to navigate and from the 90’s.  If you are selling collaboration software, put your documentation in something similar.
  6. Strong Search Capability: Speak my language and your (if you choose).  For example, one vendor I was using had a survey option.  When I did a search for ‘survey’, not results appeared.  Enough said.

That’s all I can think of/rant about now.  Let me know if you have any others.