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How ScreenSteps helps you write better B2B software documentation

This article is primarily aimed at people who have completed our B2B software documentation course. In the article we will talk about how ScreenSteps helps you apply the various techniques that were described during the course.

Our purpose in creating ScreenSteps was to create a tool that would help not only create better documentation, but better use documentation. So a lot of the features have been designed to make it simple for you to create documentation that is effective and also deliver that documentation where your customers need it.

1. Overview of how ScreenSteps can help

 

2. Making your documentation scannable

ScreenSteps enforces a certain structure to your help articles. Many web editors and word processors don't enforce any sort of structure onto your content. Without structure, your help articles are hard to scan. We do a couple of things to help you write articles that are more scannable.

2.1. An article consists of a series of steps

ScreenSteps is basically an outlining application with some nice image tools added in. Each "step" in article consists of a title, text instructions and optional image/video area.

Each step title becomes an H2 or H3 tag (these are heading tags in HTML) in your article. This does two things:

  1. It forces you to organize your thoughts and prevents rambling.
  2. The step titles make it much easier to scan your article.

2.2. We make it simple to add lots of images

Adding images to help articles was the primary motivation for developing ScreenSteps. Images add value in so many ways. One of them is making it much easier for your customers to scan your documentation for the information they need.

There are a lot of screen capture and image annotation tools out there. But we don't believe there is a simpler or faster tool for adding images to help articles than ScreenSteps.

2.3. We help you keep the scope of your articles small

Long documents are hard to scan. ScreenSteps makes it very easy to split up large articles and reference other articles.

By reducing the scope of your articles you make it easier for your customers to scan them to determine if they contain the information they need.

3. Deliver your content via the web

We try to do everything we can so that you can publish help articles without ever having to worry about programming anything. All of the images optimization and uploading is taken care of for you. All of the navigation is auto-generated. All you have to do is focus on creating your content. ScreenSteps makes sure that it gets up on the web.

But there are other requirements for having your documentation on the web. We also handle:

  • Viewing permissions
  • Integration with 3rd party authentication systems
  • Custom templating

3.1. Unique URLs

Each article in ScreenSteps has a unique URL that you can send to your customers. It would seem that this is obvious, but we have seen many help systems that use javascript tricks to create a single page with a single URL for all of the articles. We think that is a big mistake. Each article gets its own URL. That makes it much easier for you to reference your documentation when answering support requests.

4. Training your customers to use your documentation

One of the most important things you can do is train your customers and support agents to use your documentation. Here is what we do to make that easier.

4.1. We put your documentation where you support agents can use it

Our desktop support client helps support agents quickly search your ScreenSteps knowledge base and copy the URLs to their system clipboard for inserting into support chats, support tickets, emails and forums.

Our Zendesk integration adds a searchable app right inside of Zendesk that lets agents add ScreenSteps help article links to tickets with a single click.

4.2. We decrease the time it takes to write a support article

Because we have focused so much on optimizing the authoring process we have been able to dramatically decrease the time it takes to write an article. This means that you can respond to customer questions with new documentation in cases where the answer to their question isn't already in your knowledge base.

Once the article is complete and checked in your get a ScreenSteps URL back that you can instantly send to your customer.

We even developed a feature called Uncategorized articles that let you respond with a help article immediately when you customer has  a question, but not have that article added to your main table of contents or search index. This can be very valuable when you don't have the time to "polish" an article before you send it to a customer. Later on when you have more time you can go back and refine the uncategorized article and then import it into your main knowledge base.

4.3. Improving the searchability of your articles

We allow you to add alternate search terms to your ScreenSteps articles that will be used when your customers search your ScreenSteps sites. This can help when you have written an article about "embedding videos" but your customer is searching for the term "embedding movies."

5. Low-touch onboarding

We make it simple to create user manuals that are targeted at specific user personas. By making it simple to create step-by-step guides very quickly we make it possible for you to create separate user guides targeted at different user groups.

6. High-touch onboarding

6.1. Prerequisite assignments

Uncategorized articles in ScreenSteps allow you to create articles that can be shared on the web, but that don't show up in your knowledge base table of contents or search results. These can be perfect to use as a quick how-to guide for some sort of prerequisite before you start your onboarding session.

Or, if your prerequisite requirements are more complex you can create a custom manual just for the prerequisite (manuals do show up in your table of contents though).

6.2. Follow-up documentation

You can easily provide links to how-to articles in your ScreenSteps site as follow up information after an onboarding session.

If you want to create some customized documentation for a prospect then uncategorized articles are a great option.

7. Conclusion

We didn't design ScreenSteps in a vacuum. It has been built as we have met two needs in our business:

  • Helping our customers use our product to be successful
  • Scaling our own internal operations

If you are trying to support B2B customers and you found our email course material helpful then I would invite you to try ScreenSteps. I think you will find that it will change the way you write and use documentation in your business.

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