In three steps to a great help article

While crafting a great ecommerce product for our customers lies in the hands of our development teams, we as technical writers do everything we can, to best teach online merchants how to use this product. By publishing easy to understand articles and providing support in our help center, we empower merchants to become successful with their online business. In this post, I tell you how we deal with it.

See the product from a user’s point of view

In order to reach out to our merchants with good advice, we need to forget that we as insiders already know where to navigate and how the software behaves. We need to see the software through the eyes of our merchants.

Let’s use an example and say, our software now offers the option to place Call-To-Action buttons (CTAs). So what do we do, when we need to craft an article about that? We play dumb. We forget about certain things that we have seen or heard about before. Then we take one of our showcase shops for the help center, make our way to the new feature, try it out, experiment with it, and track our experiences on the way. Even though the software has been tested many times before, maybe to us there was something unclear, or unexpected. This is important information from which we can generate advice or share some clues during the creation of the article. And sure thing, we also pass our findings and feedback on to our UX team and Product Management.

Tell them about the goal they’re going to achieve

Once we’ve experienced this CTA topic ourselves, and discovered how it all works, we’ll question when or why merchants should use this feature. That’s why the next thing we do is search for background information to enlighten us and our merchants. We will ask our designers for some creative tips and tricks, consult our UX colleagues, and search the internet for advice.

In relation to our example, we first explain what CTAs are, why it makes sense to place them in an online shop, and how our merchants benefit from that. If this is already a comprehensive topic, then it’s a good idea to make it an own article. A too long article which holds too much information has a discouraring effect on the reader, and it’s hard for them to digest all the content at once.

If you’re curious how we solved that, you might want to take a look at the result:Encourage your customers to buy with effective Call-To-Actions.

Show them how it’s done

Our merchants are now familiar with what they can achieve with Call-To-Actions. Let’s tell and show (!) them how they can implement this great stuff for their shop.

Remember? We’ve already experienced working with CTAs ourselves in our showcase shop. How super excited we got about it! We were almost on the verge of setting up our own online business. (Ok, Ok. Before we do that, we want to tell our merchants how it’s done.) See what this is getting at? We can put our excitement into our writing, and thus motivate our merchants, and positively support them with the implementation.

So what do we do? It’s always great to sharpen the imagination, so for us it’s a best practice to provide our readers with images and gifs that showcase how a feature looks like in action. Whether it’s about configuring a setting, adding products, or setting up a theme, it never goes without a visual. Sure thing, we also want to explain the user the exact way. With a step-by-step instruction, we guide them precisely to the result.

When writing a help article, a positive and confident tone as well as consistent terminology is vital for our communication with the audience as it builds trust and demonstrates professionalism. If you’re interested, here’s what we did in our CTA case: Place Call-To-Actions on images.

Now go ahead and craft a great article yourself!

About the author

Birgit Bader is an experienced Technical Communicator. Her heart beats for UI writing, localization, and API documentation.