Product documentation can be a great marketing asset for promoting both your product and your organisation.
Customers rely on product information to inform their purchasing decisions, so product documentation can be used to support marketing initiatives.
- Product documentation has a range of content targeted at different audiences. This can be a valuable source for marketing automation strategies.
- The content is full of keywords, links and is well structured; all of which improves SEO.
- High-quality product documentation ensures customers get the full value out of their product, and this builds loyalty.
But poor-quality product documentation, like a poor-quality product, can have a negative effect. Poorly written content or inaccurate information can frustrate and drive away customers.
So how do you ensure that your product documentation is of sufficiently high quality that you can benefit from it?
Measuring quality in product documentation
Measuring quality in product documentation is the same as for the rest of the product. Quality is determined by the conformance to the requirements. But what are the requirements for product documentation?
The purpose of product documentation is to communicate relevant information about the product to the people who need that information, when they need that information.
For example, a developer requires API reference when integrating with a product, or a first time user requires instructions about setting up the product when taking it out of the box for the first time.
To help this objective, the content needs to be:
- Clear, concise and unambiguous – It should go without saying that it needs to be in a language that the reader understands.
- Accurate and comprehensive: If the information is correct, but parts of the product are not covered, the reader will not be able to achieve their goal.
- Findable and accessible: An often overlooked aspect of quality is its usability in the context of the product. If a user can’t find the information, then it doesn’t matter how well it is constructed or how accurate it is, the objective will not be met.
Achieving quality in product documentation
As with all production processes, the quality of the product information should be built into the process. This is best done by detailing the requirements for the product information during product development, as is done with the other aspects of the product.
- Create a style guide: The style guide defines the language to be used. Defining this early on ensures that consistent, unambiguous words and phrases are agreed, so making the production and review process simpler.
- Define a content model: The content model is part of the organisation’s overall content strategy. It specifies what content is required for a particular product, thereby ensuring that the product information is comprehensive, and will fit with other activities, for example, marketing automation.
- Define templates: The templates determine the look of the content. Taking the time to define these early in the process ensures that any content produced will fit alongside existing product information and reinforce the brand image.
- Define a clear publishing process: Content publishing should be aligned to the product release. Some information is required in advance of the launch, others at the time of the launch, and some is embedded in the product itself. Therefore the publishing product information should be integral to the product release process.
- Specify the usability criteria of the product information: The product information should be treated the same as all other features. So the usability criteria should be defined and tested in the same way to ensure the requirements are met.
Producing quality in product documentation
With the requirements in place for the product information, the process of producing the content becomes a routine part of the product development process.
- Content is produced according to the requirements provided
- Content is reviewed against these requirements to ensure quality
- Content is reviewed against the product to ensure technical accuracy
- Content is published following product release process.
By having well thought out requirements and processes for your product information, you can have the confidence that the content is of the high quality that your customers demand. This means your product documentation is an asset that can be used to improve SEO, assist marketing strategy, give customers a better experience, and ultimately attract more customers.