Customer Service Software
Published October 09th, 2017 by

How Online Manuals Can Supercharge Your Online Help Center

Team brainstorming
Online help centers simply can’t avoid creating online help manuals, and if you’re wondering why, then you need to be reminded of the online manual purpose. In its true essence, online help serves to effectively and efficiently provide the correct information to the right people, or better yet, the target audience in need of guidance.

Online manuals try to provide users the most useful information related to the specific task they need to undertake. However, there are many components affecting the content effectiveness, and the use of documentation software during manual creation is only one of them. The rest of the manual design depends on the topic and its supportive content, format, structure, optimization, and of course, readability and navigation.

Nonetheless, online manuals are more powerful when it comes to online help centers. Not only will they supercharge them, but they can be of great help to the readers who are lost in various task requirements. But to what extent does online help benefit from manual integration?

What Makes a Good Online Manual?

How many times have you found yourself lost in pages and pages of text without a clue on what it’s all about? It’s no wonder that the majority of people don’t read instructions – they don’t have the time to waste on poorly written content.

A quality manual seamlessly blends the task concept with the audience’s level of skill and knowledge. Meaning, an online manual is like an extension of the overall product and online support website design. Therefore, it needs to be planned, properly written, and tested with the care of users. Simply put, a good manual should be task-focused, supportive, helpful, user-focused, easily accessible, as well as available for reading.

The first thing to do when designing online documentation is to conduct the analysis of consumer-task relation in order to determine:

  • Who is the target audience
  • What is the task they need to comprehend
  • What they already know
  • What they need to know to perform the task efficiently
  • From there on, the gathered material should be well-presented via technical writing. Hence, the basic, yet correct, writing procedures include:
  • Presenting the topic in a manner that will engage and answer user’s questions;
  • Dividing the content into bullets to help the users immediately find the answers;
  • Step-by-step instructions to assist the audience and help them to better perform the task;
  • Caution and warnings of potential difficulties and problems;
  • Table of content or comparative content easy-digestible for users;
  • Graphics and imagery to better explain the content;

The Best Approach to Manual Design

Through the online help center, you can select from a number of options when it comes to the user manual content delivery. No matter the situation, a website design has to respect the following rules in the case of the manual layout:

  • Font– As previously mentioned, the content has to be readable. Hence, classic fonts such as Times Roman are a good choice, because experimenting with different styles can affect the overall appearance of the manual and its comprehension.
  • Word Count– Any text over 400 words is simply too long. Keep it simple and use headings.
  • Color – For enhanced readability, use a black font color on a white or neutral background;
  • Optimization – Search engine optimization with keywords and links ease the user’s search on the common search engines.

Types of User Manual Information

Like the majority of online systems, user manual information can be divided into:

  • Specific task– Step-by-step information about the specific task delivery.
  • Concept – These types of information are customized for a broader audience, thus, the concept information offers several settings for the task, according to the level of task knowledge.
  • Reference – Describing only a portion of applications, but with plenty of details such as menu descriptions, command tables, field descriptions, etc.

Online Help Website Implementation  

Online help centers gives you the option on how to implement online manuals on the site. Their options are:

  • Basic task information– This is a standalone help and basic information located on the help menu. From there on users can search for the needed information;
  • Specific task information– Context-sensitive help gives specific information about the task performance immediately on the interface or the detailed information about the access to a specific task field.
  • Embedded information– Dynamic change of detailed information, leading the user step-by-step throughout the whole process.

Benefits of Online Manuals

Still wondering about the online manual’s supercharge abilities? Then let’s take a peek at the scope of advantages online centers can experience, including:

  • Integration– Online manuals are easily integrated into the help menu interface with access available by clicking a link or button;
  • Customer Satisfaction– Organizations can create user manuals which provide accurate information and guidelines to better assist the users. Thus, the customer satisfaction rate increases, given that users get all the answers they need.
  • Immediate Help – This kind of help is immediate, meaning, that online manuals provide real information in real-time.
  • Cutting Costs – Immediate solutions lead to lesser customer support calls. In addition, online manuals cut the costs of printed paper documentation;
  • AwarenessOnline user manuals provide links to the website. Likewise, their SEO-friendly design puts them high on the search engine results pages for specific keywords.

One has to admit that online manuals provide a substantial amount of support to help centers. Apart from raising awareness about the website, user manuals also cut expenses and truly help the target audience. And the benefits don’t stop here, since having more satisfied users leads to an increased base of loyal supporters. The best part is that a quality documentation system makes manual creation much easier, as long as you remember to apply these essential user manual tips.

Robin Singh

Robin 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.

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