You know what you need to document. However, it is more important to understand the document audience and their needs. Audience analysis typically provides information about user behavior and their needs. Although the true value of audience analysis comes from empirical data, it is not always possible for writers and small organizations to study their users and collect data. This information gap can be bridged by a senior team member, or your sales department. A brainstorming session that includes the writer along with the sales or customer relations officer or anyone who actually goes around in the field can fill this gap of empirical data to a certain degree.
We are talking about all this analysis because we need to know how the users find answers to their software related problems, how they interact with user documentation, and what information sources they use most. Based on this information, we can identify the features required for our user documentation. The image below, from Skype website, shows typical features of web based Help. For the purpose of this series, let us list out some attributes of web-based documentation.
- Navigational aids
- Navigation Tree or Breadcrumb Navigation
- See Also (contextual topics)
- Tag Clouds
- Animations or videos
Apart from these common user features, we also need to evaluate the CMS features that our documentation team needs to fulfill their responsibilities effectively. Some of the key features we need in our WordPress setup for this are:
- WYSIYG Editing
- Layout Definition
- Administration and Control
- Manage User Roles
- Enforce Editing Workflows
- Version control
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just enough to begin and get our hands dirty with WordPress. The next post of the series will evaluate a few themes based on our requirements. The idea is to shortlist themes that will need minimal external plugins and technical adjustments to get what we want. But before you can work with us, you will need to install WordPress on a local computer or on a online server. Get our free WordPress guide to get started.