It’s Time to Clean Up Your Documentation

Companies invest a lot of money into developing and delivering content. Shouldn’t it perform for you?

Don’t you hate going through a SharePoint server or wiki trying to find the latest information about some company product or service? Usually, what you find are duplicate and outdated articles, in multiple departmental silos of data. After a few attempts, you give up and start surfing the Internet for answers. (And you wonder why You Tube videos are so popular.)

How Do You Value Documentation?

If you value documentation – yes, actually put a dollar-figure on it – you would think twice about  leaving content sitting on a shelf gathering dust because (for some reason) nobody is using it.

The corporate sage who measures ROI on every asset in the place should apply the same precision assessment on documentation (yes, each piece of content). In other words, content is no different than other “assets”. It has some value. But without monitoring and measuring it, you don’t know what it is. 

The Best Practice to avoid document “shelf decay” is to revisit your content on a periodic basis. That way you won’t end up buried in old, stale, nobody-uses content. (Clutter is a real turnoff to anybody searching for information they need NOW!)

Time to Get Out the Shovel

Once a month or quarter, ask your technical writers to cull through the content on your web site(s) and intranet. They should:

  • Assess the validity. Has the related product/service changed? If so, the content needs to be updated.
  • Check the feedback.  Is there anything from customers, partners, and employees? Respond to questions and complaints.  
  • Look at the number of visitors. Ask yourself why some are performing better than others. The content objects that show no activity should be removed – yes, archive it. Or maybe the asset needs to be refreshed. Give it some life – add graphics, videos, animation, quotes from experts, or something else to generate visits and comments. 
  • Promote content that supports your products and services. If you aren’t doing this, how do you expect anybody to find what you sell? If you make it hard to locate the information, your people will simply go somewhere else where it’s easier to get their answers.
  • Apply new branding guidelines. If Marketing has introduced new branding guidelines, your site pages and attachments should be revised so they appear current (in other words, all content should be aligned with the Marketing program).

Customers, Partners, and Employees Want to Be Informed

Your goals should be to provide the latest information to your visitors, as well as manage the clutter to a minimum. Think of it as keeping your assets in shape.

If you are not doing this, you are not taking advantage of your technical writer resources. Technical writers are not only good at creating new content but also repurposing existing content for better performance. And, technical writers are getting savvier about SEO techniques and metrics.

Improve Your Content ROI

It takes assessment, strategy, and a bunch of work to make your content perform. But if you don’t do it, who will? There is nothing worse than a lot of effort put into creating documentation that nobody reads or uses.

Why have assets unless they are going to provide a return? Treat your content like you do your financial investments. If it’s not performing, change what you are doing.

Give me a shout, and tell me what is working for you in promoting your content and garnering user feedback.

About jleer

Jonathan Leer is writer/owner of Leer Technical Communications, LLC, a technical/business writing consultancy that strives to add value to content creation and delivery. He and his fellow writers and editors provide their services to companies in the high-tech, financial, healthcare, and manufacturing industries. Many of these projects have required working with stakeholders in compliance, product development and testing, professional services, customer support, marketing, sales, finance, and training. Content has been targeted to customers, and partners, as well as developers and other internal personnel, and published for wiki, web, and print delivery. Contact Jon for questions or requests for assistance with your next content project.
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