by Michele Marques, Information Developer Specialist, ITSM
Sure, you might write great technical documentation. But if customers cannot find the information, your content isn't helping them.
Getting the information out there isn't enough, if the customer doesn't even know it exists. There are lots of things to think of here: navigation, search, metadata. How does the customer find the documentation to begin with? Where are they looking? And what terms are they using to search?
Your product might have a great term for a spiffy function. But your customer might not know that term, especially if they are new to the product.
If your documentation is on a web site, you might find out what search terms customers are using. Your admin might be able to provide that information. Or if you use Google Analytics, you can check both the Google search terms and the site search terms.
Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you have a user community or user forum, how are people asking their questions? What terms do they use to refer to your product's spiffy functions? The experienced users might use your product's terminology, but the new users might use other terms.
Making search terms work
When you know the search terms, you can connect them to your content. Does it make sense to use these phrases in titles, headings, and other text? Tags or labels might make the relevant content more findable. If you don't want these terms to be visible, you can use metadata. Metadata is usually hidden from people viewing your content, but is part of the code that the search engines will use to index your content.
Getting from here to there
Sometimes the customer doesn't even know that she needs some content. For example, she finished installing the product, but doesn't know about a post-installation procedure. Or he found spiffy feature and doesn't realize that there is a related feature. That's where navigational aides can help.
Include links to related content, where to go next, and any other links that might help your customer get to the right location - or the next right location. Let each part of your documentation be a map to other content that the customer might want.
The postings in this blog are my own and don't necessarily represent BMC's opinion or position.