We get used to certain things to the point where we can’t tell whether they are good or bad. It can be hard to evaluate a help authoring tool you have been using for a while as you have gotten accustomed to its features and know the workarounds for when things go south.
We have prepared a list of seven things that indicate that your documentation tool isn’t good:
You Lose Documents Along the Way
Losing documents while working on a documentation project is a huge red flag signifying that your HAT is bad. This document loss can mean several things, like: available teamwork processes are not clear/efficient, your workflow doesn’t match what the tool is offering, etc.
A good teamwork process for a documentation writing tool consists of several aspects: topic statuses, the possibility of setting up roles and permissions (the custom roles option is just perfect), customizable email notifications, documents getting locked automatically.
You Need to Adapt Your Teamwork
Integrating a new documentation writing tool into your workflow is not an easy task, but when the tool isn’t flexible enough things can completely get out of hand. Some teams end up having to re-create and re-adjust their entire work process to be able to work smoothly with the help authoring software of choice.
Flexibility is an important feature for software documentation tools since a HAT is a tool that should first and foremost provide a convenient work environment and have ready options for a variety of workflows. So, if things are okay for now, but one day you decide to restructure something in the team, your help authoring software should not limit you.
You Can’t Brand Your Docs
Branding user manuals is a must-have. We write a lot about its advantages. Documentation without branding looks blank and unprofessional. By branding we mean not only your company logo, but rather the whole range of options like adding links to the main website, customizing the doc portal home page, following through with the corporate style guide (fonts, colors, icons, etc.).
If your help authoring software doesn’t allow this — think twice before renewing the license. Documentation is the way your company communicates with clients, so, you want it to look professional and trustworthy.
You Waste a Lot of Time on Documentation Maintenance
Does your help authoring tool support single-sourcing? And, if it does, are you using it to its full extent? Oftentimes, single-sourcing in documentation writing applications is either quite limited or very complicated. So, if you feel trapped by copy-pasting content or manually updating repeatable bits, let that be a D- for your help authoring software.
In ClickHelp, we know all too well how important it is to be able to reuse content. Many technical documentation examples show that when you got the very first manual right, all the following versions will be mostly a modified replica of it. So, that’s what we came up with in ClickHelp in terms of single-sourcing: conditional blocks, a conditional TOC, content snippets, variables, etc. You can get as many different outputs of the same user manual as you wish.
You Often Worry About Content Security
If your technical documentation contains sensitive data, and you find yourself worrying about its security too much, then, most likely, your technical writing software is doing something wrong. For example, it lacks transparency about things like where the servers are located, how safe they are, what the downtime stats are, what other clients are saying about the product. Even if there’s no sensitive data in your user manuals, you still need to be sure that years of hard work won’t go ‘poof!’ because of some outage. In ClickHelp, we believe that trust is extremely important, so we are very open about the security side of things.
You Feel out of Control
A documentation writing process needs to be managed thoroughly for it to be successful. Without the right stats at hand, it is very difficult to plan ahead and think about improvements. Modern software for technical writers should offer a toolset for data analysis. For example, ClickHelp has 30+ metrics for content analysis, general workflow statistics and reports, and Google Analytics integration. There’s plenty of stuff to work with, so you can easily come up with a whole system of stats, base changes and tweaks around.
You Use Too Many Third-Party Tools
We did a research on favorite tools of technical writers , and it turned out that many of them are still using standalone text editors to produce content. There’s one thing you should always keep in mind about software documentation tools — if even its basic functionality is pushing you towards a third-party tool, the HAT ain’t good.
A better practice would be either a documentation writing tool that incorporates many features or the one that allows integrations with relevant tools. ClickHelp is actually both. It is very powerful on its own, plus it integrates with Zendesk, Google Analytics, Salesforce, Disqus, and more.
These are our top 7 warning signs that your documentation writing software is not good, and you might want to pick a different tool for content creation. What are the main red flags for you personally as far as help authoring tools are concerned?
Good luck with your technical writing!
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