How many people really read an entire user guide from beginning to end? Or even one chapter? The purpose of technical documentation is to provide the consumer with useful, action-oriented tasks that can be read and understood quickly. But many times the documentation is filled with lots of redundant or useless information that is meaningless to the consumer. What’s more, forcing your customers to wade through pages of technical jargon can lead to frustration and possibly even prevent them from purchasing your products in the future.
Helpful tips for improving business content in a CMS.
With much of the technical documentation in electronic form, it’s easier than ever for users to search for a specific instruction or topic. That topic might be the only content they read. As writers, we need to make each word of content matter to the user. To pare down the clutter in your documentation, follow these business CMS content improvement tips:
Trash the fluff.
One of the best ways to use a CMS for business is to eliminate redundant or extraneous information. When reviewing you content, ask yourself the following questions: Is it necessary to have a chapter outline when you already have a table of contents? Are those descriptive paragraphs that go on and on really valuable to a user who is only looking for information on how to use your product? If the answer is No, get rid of it.
Name that task in 10 words or less.
Less can actually be more when it comes to your business content. Use a minimal amount of words to convey the steps needed to use your products. Make it easy to understand and quick to read. You can slash pages of content from your documentation just by rewording sentences to the bare minimum. For example:
“In order to activate the laptop for use, the user must press the Power (PWR) button and hold it for a period of 2 seconds. Then the button is released.”
could simply be stated as
“Press and hold PWR until the Windows logo appears.”
30 words vs. 9 words…which would you read? Keep it simple and to the point.
(Source for example: JoAnn Hackos)
Don’t let users hang.
Another helpful tip for improving content in a CMS is to simplify the process of correcting mistakes. In addition to providing the tasks for the user to do, tell them what the most frequent pitfalls are and how to recover from them. If you hit the wrong button and launch a process that you didn’t intend to run, how do you stop it? Provide information on how to avoid common errors and mistakes – this is useful information too.
If you track the questions that are often asked by your consumers, use that information to refine your documentation and clear up any vague or misleading instructions. Put a process in place with your support team to capture this information and provide it to the communications team for analysis and action.
Contact us for additional business CMS content improvement tips.
Vasont Systems is your source for the best ways to use a CMS for business. We’ve been providing cost-effective content management solutions for companies in industries such as healthcare, technology, financial, government and defense, manufacturing, and publishing for nearly a quarter of a century.
Call us at 717-764-9720 or visit our website for help in getting started with your content management strategy.