When your customers visit your Help Center they’re looking for something specific. The articles you write should help your customers do this one specific thing - for example, get started on the right foot, solve a problem, answer a question or excel with your product. Here’s the stuff you need to write in order for your customers to be successful with your product.
The getting started article
Your new users are unfamiliar with your product and will have questions about setting up. Your getting started article should show your customers a few, quick, valuable ways to get started with your product. Here are some tips:
Only provide the bare essentials for getting started, like installing, configuring, etc.
Keep your instructions short so your customers can get set up right away.
Complement your article with a short video to walk customers through setting up.
Best practice articles
Your best practice articles should help your customers excel at the job they hired your product for. They don’t necessarily have to be about your features, but should focus on the surrounding skills of the job your product enables. The article you’re reading right now is a good example - it’s not about how to use Educate’s features, it’s advice on how to write better.
Here are some tips for gathering best practices:
Talk to your customers and share their real-life examples (not abstract use cases your customers can’t relate to).
Ask your team to share their expert advice for how they use your product.
Sit down with the product manager and ask them questions like:
Product related: ‘What job does this feature help customers do?’
Non-product related: ‘If this feature didn’t exist, how could customers excel at this job?’
Pro tip: Your article title and subheadings should focus on the job your customers want to do, not the feature they want to use. For example, ‘Tracking your project’s progress’ is better than ‘How to use ExampleApp’s tracking feature.’
We write lots of best practice articles at Intercom 😄Check out this effective best practice article for inspiration.
If you’ve got a complex product, or an important but tricky workflow, document the steps for getting through it. For example, if integrating your app with a third party provider requires technical skills, you should create a step-by-step article to help customers when they hit a problem. Here’s how to identify and address your customers’ pain points:
Talk to your customer support team (or better still, talk to your customers) to find out where they’re getting stuck and prioritize creating content for those use cases.
Walk through tricky workflows yourself so you can create content based on your own experiences as a user. It’s easier to have empathy for your customers when you’ve experienced their problem first-hand.
Ask a teammate to walk through the workflow too - they might spot pain points you’ve missed. This also helps you eliminate any bias in your writing.
Use the simplest, clearest language to explain a tricky workflow. Your users’ time and energy is best spent taking action, not trying to decode complex instructions.
FAQs let customers find the answers to questions on their own, which saves your support team time. For example, you could let customers know how your pricing model works. Or you could explain why you haven’t built a frequently requested feature. Here’s how to create useful FAQs customers are likely to search for:
Ask your customer support team to tag questions your customers often ask. Then when you write an FAQ about your calendar feature, for example, you can search for your ‘Calendar FAQ’ tag to see where your customers’ frustrations lie.
If lots of your customers are asking for a specific feature your product doesn’t have, create an FAQ to explain why you haven’t built it. Provide alternative tips customers can try with your product to help them do the job they need.
If you’re about to launch a feature, your customers won’t have used it yet. Instead, ask your product team which product limitations are likely to trigger questions. And if you ran a beta of the feature, take a look at the feedback you’ve received.
Keep your answer short and concise so customers can quickly get back to their workflow.
Assume customers will search for this answer - include keywords they’re likely to search for in your article title and description to help them find what they need.
Pro tip: Visit your Insights to see which terms customers searched for, but didn’t find. These will make great FAQs as your customers are already looking for the answer.
When your customers get stuck using your product they’ll likely search your Help Center for answers. Identify the most common problems people run into and create a troubleshooting article to help them past each problem.
For example, if customers get an error performing a CSV import, you could create an article that tells them the top 5 things to try. Here are some tips:
Ask your customer support team to identify the top things that go frequently wrong for your customers. This will help you decide which articles to create.
Get your hands on any internal troubleshooting guides you can adapt for your Help Center (your customer support team might have created these).
Start with the most obvious possible problems (that most people experience), before narrowing it down to more specific issues.
You should pose a series of questions, for example, ‘Are you running a web proxy?’ Customers can then scan these questions and quickly find the answer to their problem.
Pay attention to the conversations customers start from your troubleshooting articles - then improve your content based on the real problems customers are having.
Here’s an example of an effective troubleshooting guide written by frame.io
Note: These articles might only be suitable for your logged-in users, with Articles Pro you can keep them private so they don't appear for logged-out visitors.
Now you have some ideas for articles to create, here’s how to ensure your customers find the content they search for.