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Making product documentation fit for the internet. Here's how to do it.

Product information is something that actually holds a great deal of potential for your company. The internet is becoming ever more rapid and effective as a provider of information and even product documentation can be polished up so that it can be presented online. Though in the majority of cases it is produced in printed form and supplied to customers along with the product, the increasing mobility offered by smartphones and other user-devices has given rise to a shift that is now in full swing:

  • Even in the case of instruction manuals and similar items, modern technology is something that can set your product apart.
  • It enables you to make product information available in real time.
  • Making information and documentation available online is also a way of keeping in touch with your customers in the post-purchase phase.

Creating a baseline for mobile product documentation

Many companies only supply product documentation and instructions in paper form, however the latest technologies are expanding the parameters in a way that epitomises the smart use of technology. After all, why shouldn't we provide our customers with maintenance handbooks in a mobile version in HTML5 format? Service technicians would then be able to call up the relevant document on a tablet computer. An enclosed form and a digital stylus are all that would be needed for service technicians to work through a checklist or enter readings. The possibilities are numerous.

Five tips when implementing mobile documentation

  • Publish your product information in as many output formats as possible: methods such as Single Source Publishing and Cross Media Publishing can help you do this.
    Single Source Publishing
    Crossmedia Publishing
  • Compile product documentation that are concise. Try to make sure that your instruction booklets contain as little text as possible - develop standards that will ensure that your documents are consistent, regardless of the type of device on which they are displayed.
  • Develop graphics that look good on any end-user device.
  • Don't forget that some end-users may also be using touchscreen devices. Links should therefore be incorporated within the layout in such a way that your customers can click on them at any time, without activating the wrong link by mistake.
  • Check out the huge variety of functions available on smartphones and tablets. Would you find some of those functions useful as part of your own production information?

Providing documents in real time

Providing an internet portal with a download area would enable your customers to access all of the documents they require in a highly convenient way. Search functions would enable them to filter the available content according to specific criteria, so that they are able to access the required document quickly.
Content Delivery Portal

Being available to your customers online

Feedback functions will enable your customers to keep in contact with you and to provide you with valuable information about your products and the relevant product documentation. This important information may even allow you to view your products, documentation and marketing literature in a new light.

Sales – Marketing – Technical Documentation - a flexible collaboration

If you seek to distribute your product documentation on a broader basis, several departments within your company stand to benefit - Sales and Marketing are already working in close collaboration. So why not bring Technical Documentation on board and benefit from editorial expertise with regard to the efficient compilation and distribution of information to customers? As a primary source of information, the internet plays an important role in that regard. From a potential customer's point of view, differences in price and differences between products are often of marginal importance. Highly innovative methods of accessing high-quality product information, such as an instruction manual or maintenance literature, on the other hand may allow your own product to stand out from those of your competitors, thereby making it more attractive.

Companies that do not provide product documentation in the most up-to-date formats are turning their backs on an opportunity to improve their position within the market. Products are not the only things that can be innovative, but product documentation can be presented in the latest formats too. We must not forget that the product and the accompanying documentation belong together as part of an overall package.