Creating Articles in ScreenSteps
An online knowledge base is a collection of individual help articles. Each help article is a web page with a unique web address. This article will show you how to create your own help articles for your knowledge base.
How to write a help article
We like to focus on creating two types of help articles.
The first type is a quick response article--short, sweet, and to the point. The second type is a road map--walking readers through a lengthier process or workflow.
Navigate to your ScreenSteps account and follow the steps below to create a simple, quick response help article. These kinds of articles are great for responding to (and eventually decreasing the amount of) support tickets.
Write in a very specific question that you receive in emails and help tickets--something like, "How do I run report X?" Or, "How do I add a new user account?"
- Click on the article title
- Write in a very specific question such as "How do I add a new user account?"
Write a brief introduction
Write the first step
Now write in the first step. If the question is, "How do I add a new user account?" and the first step is to click on account settings, write that in.
If you already have screenshots of each action a user needs to take (to answer the question in your article title), then you can add those images to your article by dragging them onto the web editor.
Your readers will appreciate seeing a screenshot of each action. Any time you click a button, type in a field, etc. take a screen shot of it.
If you need to get new screenshots, you can use the ScreenSteps desktop editor (you will have to download it, first). With the desktop editor, you can take new screenshots and annotate them with arrows, circles, blur, etc. (Click the link below to download the editor to your computer.)
To install the desktop client follow these directions:
Open the article in desktop
Open Capture palette
Navigate to the area you want to take screenshots of (e.g. a website). Click the center of the capture palette and your mouse will turn into crosshairs. Click and drag your mouse to select an area, then hit Enter. The screenshot is copied and pasted into your article.
You can take as many screenshots as you'd like--ScreenSteps will copy and paste all of them into the article for you.
Close the capture palette when you are done
Make your screenshots really helpful by adding annotations (e.g. arrows, circles). This is only available in the desktop application.
Select an image in the editor > choose the arrow
Draw on the image
Try a few other annotations so you can get an idea of what's available.
The final step is to add a heading for each screenshot that explains what action to take.
Add a heading
As you move your mouse in the editor, you will see a gray bubble:
- Move your mouse to the gray bubble
- Click on the + icon
- Select Heading
Add a descriptive action for each screenshot
Add a heading over each screenshot and type in a descriptive action such as "Click on Account" and "Click on Users."
Add paragraph text the same way--move your mouse over a gray bubble, and click Text. You can include plain text, or you can style it.
Create styled text by:
- Clicking in a text field
- Selecting a style on the right-hand side
Writing a road map article is very similar, but we're going to use one additional feature to make a lengthier article easier to read.
Create a new article in the manual just as you did in the previously.
Go to edit mode in desktop
Select Edit on Desktop from the article action menu.
It's helpful to first create an outline of the tasks that need to be completed. In this example, the article is explaining how to send an email campaign. There are three main parts to this job:
- Select a list
- Create a new email
- Send email
Each of these will be a heading in ScreenSteps--so, you would add a three headings.
Under each of these headings will be more detailed information that explains how the specific actions of selecting a list, creating a new email, and sending an email. So, we can add sub-headings under each one.
Create sub headings
Indent the headings to make them subheadings. Note the hotkey for indenting and outdenting.
Now you have a heading and subheadings
Add your content under each heading and subheading. You can add text, grab new screenshots, insert tables, or add videos (using embed code from YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, VidYard, etc.) to walk a user through a process.
Treat each main heading as a road block remover article. Add headings, take screenshots, and walk somebody through the steps.
After you have built out some of the material, you can turn your headings into foldable sections.
A foldable section will take all of the content underneath (i.e. subheadings), and turn it into a section that folds and unfolds when a reader clicks on it. This is really helpful when you have a lot of content and want to gradually show it to a reader.
This article uses foldable sections extensively
Two types of help articles
Now that you know how to write the two different types of help articles, read below to learn about the various situations you would use the types. When you first begin writing help articles, focus on creating either of the following types of help articles.
The simplest kind of help article is a quick response. Here is the format:
It looks simple because it is. Every time you receive a question in an email or a help ticket, you simply answer that question with a help article. If you get an email with a question like, "How do I change my password?" you create a help article that has a title How do I change my password? and then explain the steps.
How do I change my password?
- Click on Account
- Click on Settings
- Update Password
- Click Save
These kinds of articles are called "quick response" because your customers/co-workers know what they want to do. They just forgot and need a quick reminder, or they don't know how but don't need a lengthy explanation .
The article doesn't require a lot of explanation--all readers need are the basic steps to solve their immediate mental road block. They know how to go from A to F, they just forgot how to do part C.
The second kind of help article is called a road map. Here is the formula:
- Step 1
- Step 2
- Step 3
- Step 1
- Step 2
- Step 3
- Step 1
- Step 2
- Step 3
Think of this as writing down a job that needs to be done, and then creating a checklist of tasks that must be completed in order for the job to be done successfully. If you were to create a road map article for cleaning the kitchen, it might look like this:
Clean the kitchen
- Wet rag
- Spray countertop with detergent
- Wipe countertop clean
- Fill bucket with water and soap
- Dip mop in bucket--wring out water
- Wipe floors
- Wet rag
- Spray stove with detergent
- Wipe stove clean
- Put cups on top rack
- Put plates on bottom rack
- Put silverware in buckets
These kind of articles are called road maps because they walk your customers/co-workers through a lengthier process, from point A to point F.
Think of asking for directions. If you know the general directions to get from your house to your doctor's office, but you forgot what the name of the street is you need to turn down, you just need a quick reminder--"Take a left on Vantage road."
But, if you just moved into a new town and are going to a new doctor's office, you have no idea where to even begin. You would need a road map that explains each turn and each freeway exit.
Creating the perfect help article is challenging. The only way to get better is to create, publish, and share. Your readers will let you know if something is confusing, and whether you need to make tweaks.
Your help articles will slowly evolve, and eventually you will have really great help articles. The two keys to keep in mind are:
- Keep it focused
- Keep it visual
When a help article has a very specific, focused title (and goal), it's easier to write and read. And when there are a lot of visuals such as screenshots, it makes it easier for a reader to follow along.