Online Help Technical Writer

Reduce Customer Support Costs with an Online Help System

Online Help Technical Writer - Craig Wright

Craig Wright

Hi, I'm an experienced online help technical writer based in Derbyshire, UK. I use Paligo and MadCap Flare to create online help.

An online help system can reduce your support costs, but only if it connects with your customers. There is no point in having online help if your customers have difficulty finding or understand the information you provide - if your topics are hard to read, customers will just call your support centre instead. Which defeats the point of the online help and adds to your costs.

How can you make sure your online help works for your business and connects with your customers? By hiring an experienced online help technical writer.

I've been writing online help topics for 20 years, so I know how to create content that delivers results. Get me onboard your project and I'll quickly identify the needs of your customers and the weaknesses in your documentation. From there, I'll be able to fix your content so that it addresses problems from your customers' perspectives and uses language and concepts that they can understand.

Paligo Online Help Writer
Certified MadCap Flare Technical Writer
Paligo Online Help created by Technical Writer, Craig Wright
Flare Online Help created by Technical Writer, Craig Wright

Whatever you are looking for in a technical writer, I'm sure I can help.

  • Create an online help system from scratch? YES.
  • Update your existing online help content? YES.
  • Convert your manuals into online help? YES.
  • Improve your online help so that it gives better assistance to customers and reduces your support costs? YES.
  • Write topic-based help? YES
  • Use single-sourcing tools to create PDFs and online help from the same content? YES.
  • Take advantage of content reuse features to save you money in the future? YES.
  • Use advanced help authoring tools, such as Flare and Paligo? YES.

If you'd like to learn more about online help, please read the sections below. They will give you a better idea of what an online help system can do for your business.

If you already know about online help and want to get your project started A.S.A.P, use the Contact button to get in touch. Let's have a chat about what you need and how I can help.

What are the Benefits of an Online Help System?

There are many benefits to having an online help system instead of, or as well as, a print/PDF user guide. I'll give a quick overview of the 6 main ones, so you can see for yourself.

  1. Online help is available 24/7 to customers all over the world.

    It doesn't matter where your customers are, or what time it is, they can access helpful information.

  2. Online help can reduce your customer support costs.

    Get your content right, and your customers will turn to your online help instead of calling your support centre.

  3. Help is accessible on smartphones, tablets, and desktops.

    Modern authoring tools like Paligo and Flare create responsive outputs that resize automatically depending on the customer's device. So your customers can get help when they are out in the field or stationed at their desk.

  1. Help can boost customer confidence in your brand.

    A stylish HTML5 online help system with great content shows that you care about your customers and understand their needs. If they can find answers quickly and easily, it helps to build customer confidence and loyalty.

  2. You can encourage sales with your online help content.

    If you have a range of similar products, you can cross-promote them in your help content.

  3. Online help can enhance your presence on the Internet.

    With web-based online help, the pages are just like any other web page. And that means you can optimise them for search engines, like Google and Bing. Imagine how much extra, relevant, content your web site can contain if you add your online help to it.

Creating a Great Online Help Experience

The whole purpose of your online help is to give your customers information so that they can resolve problems themselves, without calling your customer support. That's only going to work if your online help delivers an excellent customer experience.

But in terms of documentation, what is a high quality experience?

Let's look at it from the perspective of your customers. When they use your help, they may be frustrated that they can't achieve their goal or they may be curious about the purpose of a feature. It's also possible that they are looking at your help before committing to a purchase, so they can see what sort of user assistance is available. In each of these situations, your customer needs the same things:

  • To have access to your online help on smartphones, tablets, and desktops.
  • To be able to find information quickly and easily.
  • To be able to understand the information with ease.
  • To understand the context of a feature, not just how to use it.
  • Designs that are visually appealing. Walls of uninterrupted text are daunting.

My preferred help authoring tools are Paligo and Flare, and both of these can create responsive HTML5 help. That's what we need for help that works on mobile devices and desktops. They also have options for modifying the appearance, so it is easy to add your company logo, corporate colours, and change the spacing too. In the content, I can add images or videos where appropriate, and that's another way to make sure your content is easy on the eye.

For the actual writing in your topics, I use all of my experience as a technical writer to make sure I pitch the information at the right level for the customer, and use language and ideas that they understand. I also plan for content reuse, so that it is easier, quicker, and cheaper to update your content in the future. I have a page all about my approach to writing topics, which you may find interesting.

Remember, your customers experience your online help system in the same way that they experience your products and services. So it needs to be designed to cater to their needs and should create the right impression of your business.

Is Online Help the Best Option?

Online is a great way of giving customers searchable information that they can use 24/7. But it requires the customer to actively search for information themselves, and is usually written and then published. For these reasons, it might not be the best option for you. So what are some alternatives?

Wikis

In my experience, a wiki is better for collaborative work, where you have writers, engineers, sales staff, and others all adding information to the system. Systems like Confluence make it easy to add content, and with plug-ins, they can have content reuse features, just like the help authoring tools. But they can be expensive and have limited writing tools out-of-the-box. That makes sense, as you're going to have non-technical-writers working on the content, so you can't expect them to understand the complexities of content reuse and conditional text.

Wiki-pages tend to have more content on a single page than topics, rather like this very web page!

I've used Confluence Server (good) and Confluence Cloud (not so good). There are other wiki-style platforms around, from low-end free ones with limited features to huge enterprise-level systems that can do all sorts of clever stuff, like prompt individual customers to read certain topics. Top-end solutions cost top-end prices, though, so you could be looking at £500,000 as a starting figure. Obviously, not all businesses can cope with that.

Online Help Technical Writer - Wikis
Online Help Technical Writer - Zendesk

Help Authoring Tool + Customer Support Centre

This is a really interesting combination. Customer support centres, like Zendesk, have customer support articles and ticket systems for raising customer support tickets. You've probably used one yourself. What they are really good at is ticket deflection - they prompt the customer to read relevant articles at the point of raising a ticket. Unlike help, which depends on the user searching for an answer, a customer support centre pushes relevant content to the customer. This helps to stop as many tickets being raised.

The problem for documentation purposes is that customer support centres only have very basic writing features, and don't have single-sourcing or content reuse.

But it is possible to write in Paligo, and deliver the content in Zendesk (and any other format supported by Paligo). I've exported from Paligo to Zendesk and it works well. Flare doesn't currently support help centre outputs, although it can output plain HTML topics, which may be easier to copy or import.

Whether you decide on an online help system, a wiki, or a combination of help and customer support centre, the most important thing is that your content works. I've written technical content in all three platforms, so can help you get your message across. I can connect you with sellers of different systems too. Get in touch now and let's talk about your requirements.