Fine Tuning: "Blueprinting" your Help Center

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17 comments

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    Lisa Painter

    Hi everyone:  I'm online and awaiting any questions or comments you may have about Part 1. Looking forward to collaborating today!

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    Lisa Painter

    Part 2 is now posted and I'm standing by for comments and questions.  

     

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    Wes Drury

    @Lisa - I've worked with quite a few Help Centers and have built quite a few and so far your spot on with your post.  Its very important to plan everything in advance and when I'm building one out for a client I spend alot of time getting to know their product, user base, and design taste before doing some mock-ups.  Thanks for all the great tips as I'm sure this will help others when they get ready to build out their Help Center.

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    Lisa Painter

    Thanks Wes....appreciate the feedback!  Since you have experience with Help Center planning and rollouts, do you have any "gotchas" or "lessons learned" you would like to share?  I'm always amazed with all the new things I learn each time I go through this process with a customer.   

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    Lisa Painter

    Our final portion (Part 3) is posted!   If you have been reviewing my posts today, I hope it's been giving you ideas, tips, and inspiration.   If you have stories of building a Help Center, suggestions, or even dreams about your future Help Center, don't be shy...we want to hear from you :)

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    Wes Drury

    @Lisa - Each client is different therefore there is no one solution that works across the board.  You must be ready to adapt on the fly and make sure that you build plenty of time for customization's and design and get lots of feedback as I find the client likes it one way but then once they see live want it a different way.  This sometimes leads to scope creep so make sure you add plenty of time for this.  I would just say to keep an open mind and just because the process worked on your last client doesn't mean its going to work on your current client.  You offered some great tips and hopefully people will take advantage of these tips when building out their Help Center.

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    Lisa Painter

    Nice chatting with you Wes and thanks for being a Community Moderator (we really appreciate it!)

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    Jennifer Eolin

    Great article - thanks, Lisa!

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    Laura D.

    Great article Lisa! Planning ahead is definitely the way to go.

    Although it isn't quite the same as starting from scratch, when we (Zendesk Support) moved from Web portal to Help Center we went through many of the same steps. In case anyone finds it useful, below is an overview of our migration process. Hopefully it's helpful to those who are considering migrating to Help Center from Web portal or another knowledge base product. 

    First we started by gathering a team that included multiple members from Documentation, Support, Training, Creative, Product, and Engineering. We then named a Project Manager to help us stay on track and organize communication between the teams and to put together a project page for notes and a SmartSheet for the timeline. 

    We then moved to auditing our existing Web portal content: categories were renamed, forums were consolidated, ancient content was archived, access settings were reevaluated. We divided up responsibility for sorting content to teams according to their familiarity with the content. We updated many of our translations and translated newer content. Scripts for automatically updating links from the old Web portal URLs were created (this doesn’t need to be done as links redirect, but we knew we’d eventually want everything to be streamlined), as were scripts for posting translated content quickly.   

    Our process was more complex than other migrations because we were also going to use many new Help Center features before they would eventually make their way to customers. We had to allot time for testing and feedback on those new features separate from the content and design work that was being done. (In case anyone is looking for these features, you can find out more about them in the Community v2 beta topic.) 

    With work from the design team wrapped up, new features complete, old content properly organized and new content ready to go, we started testing the site internally. Testing lasted for a week. Our Support Advocates played with it and reported bugs and formatting issues and the Product, Documentation and Training teams provided workflow and usability feedback. Once most of these concerns were ironed out we set a “flip-the-switch” moment: early on a Sunday morning, Pacific time, the quietest time in our forums. Doing this gave us a day to sort out any unforeseen issues before customers started heading back to work on Monday (or Sunday evening, Pacific time).

    The reason we were able to manage this project successfully was that we laid out our goals and everyone's responsibilities up front—we decided on our “must-haves” and our “can-make-dos” together (literally, with points and rankings). We synced in weekly meetings as an entire team and then in small groups more frequently as required by intermediate goals. Communication was constant, even across timezones, and we made sure that we knew what our next steps were at the end of each meeting. 

    Ok, that’s a long enough comment, if anyone has questions, let us know! 

    Good luck creating your Help Center!

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    Leaannw

    I read somewhere that things will get messy, but they almost have to before they will get great...where did I read that??  I need that inspiration right now!

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    Federico Olmus

    @Lisa,

    Great post, thanks!

    We are currently going through some internal knowledge base auditing sessions. Do you have any tips on how to conduct those sessions?

    Several team members will be on the look for all inconsistencies that our KB has.

    Thanks so much in advance!

     

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    Lisa Painter

    Hi Federico:  Thanks for reviewing my post!  

    I do encourage you include the core team that helped you "blue print" your Help Center throughout your KM lifecycle, but of course knowledge comes from all areas of the business and therefore an audit should include a number of folks.  

    I've leveraged portions of this PDF in the past to assist with collecting my thoughts and organizing the audit.  It's a goody I've shared with various customers and perhaps you would find it valuable.  

    Let me know what you think and sorry about my delayed response (lots of business travel the past few weeks).  

    http://www.aijc.com.ph/KM_site/docs/Guide%20for%20Conducting%20a%20Knowledge%20Audit%20-%20part%20of%20module%204.pdf 

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    Federico Olmus

    Thanks so much @Lisa, awesome document!

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    Teresa Goertz

    Hi Lisa,

    So glad I found this trio of articles which will help me plan out our Help Center.

    I have a real newbie question: I'm curious whether you've come across any clients who are using a component content management system to author for print and web, and are just starting to look at publishing HTML via Zendesk Guide?

    We use Paligo as our single-source authoring and document control CMS. We've traditionally published just PDFs and uploaded them to our website for downloading, but by the end of this year, we're going to publish a Help Center with a PDF print option on each document page. 

    From what I can tell, it might be a bit challenging to keep the same name and structure setup in our CMS for each user guide so that documents publish the way we want them to regardless of output (PDF or HTML). Any tips? 

    One thing I've noticed is that a flat structure for each user guide in our CMS works better for publishing to HTML, but a structure with more layers of hierarchy flows better when we publish to paper because we have to we put page breaks and other workarounds in the structure to get content to display a certain way for certain paper sizes.

    Does this make any sense? Let me know if you have any additional resources you can point me to as I carve out the blueprint.

    Thanks for your insights so far! Big help to a newbie like me.

    ~Teresa

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    Joanna Novelo

    Hi!  Just curious where the example checklist was.  I didn't see the link to it, so wasn't sure if I was overlooking it.  

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    Jessie - Community Manager

    Hi Joanna!

    Our Docs team is looking for that image even as we speak! We'll get it updated asap. Thanks for the heads up!

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    Jennifer Rowe

    Hi Joanna,

    Good news! We found the missing checklist and put it back in place. 

    Please see it in the body of the Fine Tuning above.

    Thanks!

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