7 Tips for Proofing your Online Help

You have done a task analysis, asked your subject matter experts (SMEs) a multitude of questions, created drafts, worked with the software, reported bugs, and so on. Now, it is time to do a thorough review of your content before you hand it off to be reviewed for sign off.

Before you press Send, do the following:

  • If you can, take a break from the project – hours, days, weeks. This will give you time to clear your head. The longer, the better. It helps to give you a fresh perspective.
  • Start from the very beginning and walk through the steps with the system, like a user.
  • Look for explanations of concepts that may have previously seemed obvious to you. You might notice holes in your work. Will your users understand what that key field on the UI page does?
  • Do you have content that is unnecessary? Are you providing steps for every field on a UI page? Did you tell them to type a name in the Name field? The user does not need help with this type of interaction.
  • Test the system. Test the system. Test the system. I cannot say this enough. If your content says that the search allows wildcards, try some searches using wildcards. If your content says that the field accepts spaces, enter information with spaces and save. See what happens. You might find that changes were made to the system that you were not privy to. Catch it now!
  • If you used any screenshots (sparingly, I hope) make sure that they are sized properly and that they highlight the appropriate information.
  • Pay close attention to the names of the fields on the UI pages and the field names in your help. Make sure they match. Systems often go through label changes, and even if you took part in those changes, you may have forgotten to update the help. The only time they should not match is if there is an error on the UI. Then, correct it in your help.
  • If you have time, have a colleague who is not familiar with this product use your content to walk through the tasks.

What other steps do you take when you take your last look at your online help before handing it off to development?

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