If you’ve never wondered about your product documentation before, we’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. So, what can product documentation say about a company?
The good news is that high-quality product documentation presents your brand in the best light possible (as well as being a marketing asset, lowering customer support costs and improving customer satisfaction).
The bad news is that poorly written content does the opposite.
In any case, product documentation has a lot to say about your company. Let’s find out what it is.
1. Content findability means you reach out to your customers
One of the most important aspects of any product documentation is content findability. As we already mentioned on our blog: If a user can’t find the information, then it doesn’t matter how well it is constructed or how accurate it is. If accessing your product documentation takes ages or requires an expert level of search engine skills, it won’t reach anyone. If, on the other hand, your online content is easily accessible from within your product (e.g. by a link within an app or a QR code on the package), takes the diminishing-but-still-important SEO into account and is consistently present across different social media channels, it’ll be much easier to find.
What does your documentation’s findability say about your company? It shows that you care (or don’t care) about your customer. It’s them who trusted you in the first place, so don’t leave them in the dark. Don’t make them rely on second-hand sources of information like forums, DIY YouTube videos or question-and-answer sites. Be the one to make the first step and meet them halfway, predicting their expectations and providing them with findable content. It’s like hiring a good customer support agent – a simple gesture showing that you care.
2. Product documentation is a reflection of professionalism
The web changed the way we consume product documentation. In the past, we had to buy a product to access it. Now, we can easily reach it beforehand. It turned the information flow upside down, meaning that we often base our purchase decisions on documentation. That means that the quality of your product content is paramount. If you don’t take care of it, sooner or later your company brand and reputation will suffer.
A shortlist of dangers:
- Inaccurate product documentation is, at best, useless. At worst, it can look like you are deliberately misleading them or even lead to serious risks for the customer.
- Messy product documentation makes your company look sloppy. It’s like saying “Hey, here’s the manual, we wrote it overnight just to get it over with. Wait, the product is great, though!”
- Poorly-written product documentation is at the opposite pole of professionalism. At best, it makes the customer laugh at you. At worst, it scares them off. Certain things matter more than you think: one research found that 59% of Britons wouldn’t use a company with obvious grammatical mistakes on its website.
- Incomplete product documentation suggests a knowledge flow problem at your company. You either don’t know what sort of information your customer needs, or you don’t have the resources to deliver that information. Both are bad.
- Inaccessible product documentation is not an option. In the 21st century, web accessibility is a universally accepted standard. If your company doesn’t take it into account, you should start worrying.
- Unreviewed product documentation is an invitation for error and results in all of the above.
The list could go on, but the key takeaway is: your product documentation sheds light on the quality of the product itself. And, by proxy, on the company behind it.
3. Product documentation represents the company behind it
There’s a common misconception that a good, intuitive product (be it hardware or software) doesn’t need documentation at all, or that perfect user experience excludes documentation. It’s ironic that if you look at the companies behind the most popular and intuitive products out there, they all have tons of product documentation. Let’s just think of Apple, Facebook, Google or Microsoft.
What’s the first thing you see when you look at their help portals? Is it that they’re useful, comprehensive or accurate? No. The first thing you see is that they look good. And you can tell it straight away, without even knowing any of those companies or their products. Why is that? Because they care about how their content looks.
And so should you. Don’t underestimate the value of the content presentation. If your product content is good, make the product documentation look good as well. Because we all need to go through the form before getting to the essence. A great-looking documentation portal invites the customer to your content, your product and your company. An unfashionable, chaotic one leaves them with an impression that your company needs change.
Your documentation shows who you are
Product documentation is more than “just a manual”. It’s your business card. It’s your product’s face. For generic, entry-level users, it’s a necessary source of information. For web-digging professionals, it’s part of their purchase decision. Don’t treat it as a sad necessity. Use it to your own advantage, as a part of the customer journey that presents your company the way you want it to be seen.