Technical writing is more effective when your help authoring tool is professional, but how to find the right tool that will meet all your needs. Here, I provide you with some points that you should pay attention to.
Easy Writing and Editing
The writing component of a HAT is essential as your main tasks will be writing topics. So, here are features that your future tool should support:
- WYSIWYG editor with table support
- A table of contents editor
- Word import
- PDF import
- A source code editor
- A conditional text
Collaboration is the main part of technical writing as writing itself. Tech writers don’t create content alone, they work with reviewers to make topics more clear and concise. In some teams, tech writers use MS Word, so they have to send documents via emails, and it’s not convenient because your email may be missed. That’s why the best idea is to use a HAT that allows every team member to work in one tool. For example, in ClickHelp, you can just assign your topic to a reviewer, so they can check your content immediately. More info you can read here: ClickHelp Features — Topic Workflow and Review.
Navigation and Search
Easy navigation and search are essential not only for users but also for tech writers themselves. For example, you want to give a link to a topic but you need to find the topic first. The answer is a convenient search.
So, here is what will make your technical writing process and documentation effective:
- Context-sensitive help
- A Table of contents
- Hyperlinks within the system (cross-references)
- Hyperlinks to resources outside of the system
- An automatically-generated list of links to related pages
- Elegant handling of 404 errors for bad links and missing pages
- The master table of contents for all documents
- Authored index
Customer Feedback Features
When documentation is finished, tech writers continue working on topics to improve them. In order to do this, they monitor customer feedback and statistics that’s why your help authoring tool should support the following options:
- Customer comments
- Page rating
- Page analytics
Nowadays, there are two main documents that standardize how modern software and content should look like to make them accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including hearing and deafness loss, low vision and blindness, cognitive limitations, learning disabilities, limited movement, speech disabilities, etc. Section 508 and WCAG are those guidelines.
Of course, in some industries and companies, this is not an obligatory point in the selection of a tool, but I think, it’s a kind of indicator that developers are interested in making their product better.
Help authoring tools are usually feature-rich since tech writers work on different and difficult projects but I gathered some key points that will definitely help you make the right decision and save your money.