A great help article teaches people about your product. When your writing is confident and accessible, they get excited about using it. Here's how to write in a way that educates your customers, and helps them find what they need.
Before you start writing
Experience your customers’ problems
Imagine how your customers are feeling when they arrive on your Help Center. Maybe they’re confused about how a feature works, frustrated that they can’t figure out a particular problem or hungry to learn, for example. Your content should help customers get what they need. So keep your advice to the point, accessible, empowering and friendly.
Walk through tricky workflows to experience your customers' actual pain points. It'll give your writing real empathy, and your readers will feel it. Then when writing your article you should address these pain points and say things like:
'We understand it's hard to...',
‘Sorry this doesn’t work as expected right now’ and
‘A great workaround to this problem is…’
Pro tip: Talk to your customer support team to find out what questions your customers are really asking. They’ll likely have internal cheat sheets which you can adapt into FAQs and how-to articles.
Be clear on your article’s objective
Before you start writing, define how your article will help your customers. This will help you stay on topic and only include advice that’s genuinely useful. For example, if you want to help your customers get set up with your product, only include tips that provide value right away - like how to install and customize your app.
What to write
Write what you know
Share the tips you follow yourself every day. For example, if you have a project management app, write about how you plan your own projects. To do this right, you need to stay up to date with how your features work - so stay tuned in to your product's updates.
Pro tip: If you’re stuck for ideas, it helps to think about your help content under these headings.
How to write
Focus on your customers’ goals, not your features
Your customers are more familiar with the goal they’re trying to achieve, than the terminology of your product. Your help content should address the jobs your customers want to do, not the features they’re trying to use.
Opening your article with the job it helps customers do, will entice them to read on. For example, ‘Work together to reach your project goal on time’ is far more appealing than ‘Here’s how to use ExampleApp’s team feature.’ Leading with the job in your title, description and sub-headings will let people quickly see if your article can help them achieve what they need.
Make your customers feel smart
When customers feel smart they'll feel confident about using your product:
Write like you speak. Think of the words you would choose when explaining a complex idea to a friend. Say things like, ‘You can’, ‘It’s best to’, and ‘This feature is great for…’
Be confident. Use active language instead of the passive voice and choose strong words like ‘you should’, ‘you need to’ and ‘we recommend.’ The more confident your tone, the more your customers will believe in your advice.
Have fun. If you feel excited while writing, this will shine through in your article, which will motivate your customers to learn and progress. Keep your tone upbeat and positive.
Show empathy. Once you know what your customers are struggling with, you should show real empathy. For example, if you have a photo sharing app and know your customers need reassurance before sharing a photo on social media, say things like, ‘Here’s what happens’ and ‘Don’t worry.’
Use your customers’ words
Know the words your customers use to ask for help with your product, whether it's on Google or in your Help Center. With Articles you can see what terms customers searched for most but didn’t find. Work those phrases into your:
Article title - Clear, action based titles work best like, ‘Collaborate together on projects.’ Once you publish your article, the collection it belongs to and the section it’s in will also appear in the URL.
Article description - This should set your customers’ expectations for what the article contains, and how it can help. Keep this short and to the point, like ‘Work with teammates to reach your deadline on time.’
Link text - Writing link text that says ‘click here’ or ‘find out more’ is a wasted opportunity. When linking to related articles, include keywords customers are likely to search for.
Make your article easy to scan
Keep each paragraph short and to the point so you don’t overwhelm your customers with too much information. Their attention will be naturally drawn to your article description and subheadings - so use these to call out your most important points. Adding bullet-points, dividers, tables, screenshots and plenty of whitespace makes it easy for customers to quickly scan your article and find what they need.
Monitor performance and iterate
Rather than making each article perfect before you publish it, go ahead and get it out there. Then learn from your customers' reactions to it and the conversations it sparks. Armed with that feedback, you can keep iterating and improving your content to make it more useful for customers.