A good and effective documentation platform should allow your users to navigate through the documentation easily so they will be able to find the right information they need fast and it should ultimately reduce the amount of support tickets significantly.
In this post we go over our recommended factors you should take into consideration when choosing your online documentation platform:
1. Hosted vs. Self-Hosted Platform
This is a very important aspect you should think of before starting to establish your documentation’s knowledge-base.
Hosted platforms are, in most cases, more limited than self-hosted platforms, as there is a fixed list of features and settings you can change, a fact that can limit your documentation from growing in the future. Also, if you would want to move to a different documentation platform (hosted / self-hosted) you would need to spend time on re-building your entire documentation on the new platform you choose.
Self-hosted platforms that can be installed on your own website allow you to have more “freedom”. If you are using WordPress, there are many features that are already built-in inside it, such as managing multiple authors, you can add other functions using different plugins and you can switch between platforms in an easier way. All these facts make the self-hosted platform a better choice for managing a complete online documentation.
2. Can the Platform be Expanded Along with Your Business?
As your business grows you may want to add more and more information to your online documentation, maybe you have plan on selling more products, or maybe you want to add more content editors to manage the complete documentation knowledge-base.
When choosing your documentation platform, here are some important things you should check that will help you understand if the platform is suitable for managing big documentation data or not:
- Does the platform allow you to have a complete editorial staff with multiple editors?
- Can you manage multiple products in one knowledge-base?
- Does the structure of the documentation allow finding information quickly and easily?
- Are the search tools effective for documentation with big data?
- Is is possible to add keywords to the documents to make the search process quicker?
3. What Filtering & Searching Options the Platform Offers?
The most important aspect that will immediately effect the amount of support tickets opened is how fast and easy it will be for your customers and potential customers to find the information they need.
If your documentation platform does not provide effective ways for finding the information, even if you continue adding new documents to it on a regular basis it will not decrease the amount of support tickets significantly, because if users will not find the relevant information for them, all the time you have invested in uploading content will be wasted and you will still need to invest time in answering support tickets.
A user-friendly documentation platform that offers effective filtering and searching tools is crucial to help you grow your business and increase your customers’ satisfaction.
Here are some filtering and searching features we recommend from our experience the documentation platform will support:
- Live search – The live search box displays the information in the search box right when the user types in a word or phrase and changes according to what he is typing at the moment
- Search for documentation information only – The search box should filter results sfrom the documentation only, so any general pages (for example: About, TOS etc.) or blog posts will come up in the search results
- Ability to filter by products – If your business contains more than one product, you would want your customers and potential customers to have the ability to filter only the documents relevant to a specific product.
Filtering by products is highly important for you as a business owner as it will help potential customers better understand what they are getting, increase your overall sales and reduce refunds and confusion.
And as for existing customers who have already purchased a specific product, they will be able to get important information about the product faster and on their own without the need to open a support ticket and wait for your support team’s reply, which will increase their satisfaction and reduce the support team’s work overload.
- Ability to filter by keywords – No matter how many products your documentation contains, allowing your customers and potential customers to search for the information they need using keywords is highly important as sometimes users are not sure what to look for, especially if your documentation contains many information, which can lead to them being frustrated, give up the search and turn to the easier option – to open a support ticket.
4. Can You Associate Documents to Multiple Products?
If you are selling more than one product, or if you are planning on expanding your business in the future with more products then it’s very important to choose a documentation platform that allows you to manage multiple products in the same documentation, without the need to setup a separate website for each and every one of your products.
You can open a dedicated documentation on a different domain for every product, but it will be less effective and preferred for many reasons, the 2 main ones are:
- More Difficult to Manage – The more documentation websites you setup, the more difficult it will be for you to manage them
- Decrease Sales & Revenues – Managing your products’ documentation on separate websites will decrease the exposure of your users to your other products. One documentation will expose your users to your other products and may lead them to the understanding that they need them also
One documentation platform that supports multiple products (unlimited preferably) is a better option.
As written above, not all users who will come to your documentation to search for information will know what to look for.
Providing your users with a good and an easy to navigate through documentation will help them get to the information they need faster, increase their satisfaction and decrease the number of support tickets significantly.
Examples of good navigation features:
- Search by Products– The ability to search by products is especially important, especially for users who are looking for information on specific products
- Search by Keywords – The ability to search by keywords is highly important to both existing customers who are not sure what to look for and also to potential customers who want to collect more information before they make a purchase but don’t know what is the relevant product, so the keywords can guide them to the right place more easily
- Documentation Search Box – An effective search box that allows users to search only inside documents, so other type of information, such as: general pages, blog posts etc., will not show up in the search results
- Related Documents – Ability to see a “related documents” with documents related to the one the user is now reading
- Categories for Different Types of Users – Ability to sort your documents by categories that will suit different types of users, for example: Presell for users who are interested in your product / Getting Started for users who have bought your product and are looking for guidance on how to use it, Troubleshooting for users who need help with your product etc.
- Support in Different Types of Content – For example: videos, articles, faqs etc. to allow your users to navigate to the information relevant for them. For example: some like to consume information by watching videos while others prefer to read short articles. Allowing each user to choose the type of information that best suits him will increase the effectiveness of your documentation