It is easy to fall into the trap that everything needs to be well planned and evaluated before it can be made public. Looking at documentation and instructions for systems or work tasks, for example, it is not as important as we believe to make it perfect. The most important thing is that the documentation is available and - above all - that it is easily accessible when users' needs arise.
Documentation can rather be good than perfect
Remember that documentation does not need to be perfect to be effective. When reaching for perfection it is easy to avoid doing anything at all, and we often find ourselves saying: ”We don’t have time for this now, we need to prioritize other things”.
If a video instruction has perfect sound quality or aesthetics is not that important for the user. What determines whether it is a good instruction or not is how quick and easy the user find the answers needed and is able to move on with the work task. Sure, it feels good to create "professional" material, but the planning and creating process consumes a lot longer time. Really consider whether it is more important to reach perfection rather than a solution where you quickly can send out new instructions to the users.
It doesn't matter if the documentation exists, when no one finds it
Do you have documents uploaded on the intranet, videos on another part of the intranet, other documentation in a different system and also printed documentation in a folder? You’re not alone. It is very common amongst many organisations that documentation is widly spread in too many places. It is not unusual that you work in various systems doing the exact same thing basicly – storing information about working tasks and associated tools. If documentation is hard to find, it doesn’t matter that it exists – right?
Consider placeing the documentation where users are usually working, for example on the intranet, on the website or in a specific system. Embed or add links to the documentation at these sites so that users can find the help they need by using as few clicks as possible.
Make the information easy to access
Accessibility is not only about making it easy for the user to find what one is looking for, it is also about making it easy to comprehend the information to prevent too long stops in the workflow. By adjusting the medium according to what is to be communicated, you can shorten the time needed by the user to understand the information, and by that also increase productivity. It is common that documentation consists of long texts, whichs can be difficult to comprehend. Rather divide the documentation into shorter parts, making it easier for the users to find the part regarding their need.
Text might not always be the best way of describing something. If one is explaining how to perform a task in a system, for example, it may be easier for both the person documenting and the user to work with screen recording. It is quickly recorded how a task is performed, and the user understands more easily when seeing it explained in video rather then text. Also, keep in mind that we all learn best in different ways, so it is also a good idea that the documentation is provided in different media forms.
Three things to remember about documentation, which both simplifies the process of creating and makes it easier for users to find and understand it:
- Create documentation that is good rather than perfect
Remember that perfectionism often consumes unnecessarily amount of time. If the user understands what is beeing communicated and can get on in the workflow, you have succeded. Of course we strive for aesthetic presentations, but consider the importance of quickly reaching out with the documentation.
- It should be easy to find what you’re searching for
When documentation is scattered in several places, it may take time to find the right place to look. Keep everything collected in one place and, even better, make documentation available where users usually work, such as on the intranet or in a specific system.
- Use the right medium for the purpose
Long text documents are not always the best way to explain something. Are you displaying a task in a system? If so, record the screen so it becomes easy for the user to keep track of how a function should be used. The win is also that it is usually faster for you who creates the material.
Also, keep in mind that in many cases it is good to divide the documentation to simplify for users to find the part that can answer their questions, or that shows how to perform the task they are facing.