Rather than use valuable time developing an online Help Manual from scratch, we reached immediately for the excellent open source software, b2evolution. (This is the same software this website, and several others of ours, are built with. And yes, it is written in lowercase!)
This software is incredibly sophisticated and feature-rich (and admittedly requires a learning curve), but this is what makes it so powerful. It so easily handles multiple blogs, photo galleries, forums, newsletters, email campaigns, and (who’d have thought) manuals straight out of the box with one very easy installation. It is definitely our go-to Content Management System (CMS) where any or all of these are needed.
With this software installed, we created a structure, or Content Hierarchy, comprised of ‘chapters’ that matched relevant sections within the program. A Conventions page was created as a visual guide — by way of example, one convention listed on that page states: ‘Words in fixed pitch font indicate an action you perform, eg click or select or enter.’
Some pages could logically go into more than one chapter, and this was easily done with b2evolution. Such pages existed as a single copy, but could be assigned primary, secondary, and any other locations via cross-posting. Any changes made to the single copy automatically propagated throughout the manual and there was no fear of information becoming asynchronous.
Because of the well-developed and well-supported b2evolution software, we were able to build a useful and powerful online resource quickly, limited only by the time it took to do the things that can’t be automated: structuring the layout, preparing screenshots, and writing the Help content. Having a solid framework ready to go — we didn’t even need to muck around with a design as a fully-workable one came pre-loaded — saved a lot of time that was better spent on content creation. It was a lot easier to prepare than the ubiquitous PDF many fall back on, and is also easier to access and search. Users can even ask questions about the program anywhere within the Help, for others to see, and which helps drive improvements.
Please get in touch if you’d like an online manual set up for your own needs. We can install and set everything up to your requirements, including the search engine optimisation. We can also do the tech writing if so desired. Or, if you prefer to do this yourself via Word documents and the like, format and post the content on your behalf.