User Experience Insights
Content Maintenance – Keeping Things Fresh!
Have you ever searched for an answer on the web, finally found what seemed like useful data, then realized the date stamp was from 5 years ago?
I have, many times, and this is an experience I’d like to avoid for any software user trying to find help either in-app or in an online library. That’s why I believe that maintenance of enablement content is as important as creation of this content.
I’d like to talk about what you can do to make sure your content stays up to date so that you don’t end up with frustrated users. I’ll look at the importance of setting up a maintenance process, using existing features like versioning logs, and how to make sure your uses know about changes to the software.
Another process to follow? Yes, please.
Imagine you’re creating new content, say an eLearning, and you’re all excited about the possibilities ahead of you – you can decide which template to use, the structure and linking, maybe add some animations, think about text-to-speech and translation, and then finally it’s ready and you’re of course very proud of your work. You publish the eLearning and turn to your next task.
Think about this – what happens in one year from now, when the software you’re describing in your eLearning has received two updates and maybe even a new theme? What if it looks completely different, green instead of grey, or even worse – the process flow has changed?
Your readers will be confused at best, or even angry at your out-of-date content. They will take one look at your carefully crafted enablement content and think: “What? This doesn’t look like my screen and my buttons are not in this place – why spend time looking through this?”. Every technical writer knows the pain of constantly having to stay up to date with the ever-changing software. Not just the interface but also changed process flows, features, and functions.
Chances are that users who are disappointed once will not go back to the platform which disappointed them and will instead turn to other help channels like colleagues or a search engine. If we want users to look for help in our channels, we need to make sure that the information is always correct and always up to date. This doesn’t happen on its own – so yes, another process is needed.
Let’s go back to the creation of our new and shiny eLearning. You publish it and then instead of going on to the next task, what do you do? You follow the maintenance process.
This process will look different for smaller and larger companies, for tight-knit teams and spread-out organizations. But no matter how it looks like in detail, it will help you to define your next steps.
These could be done outside the content creation solution and just be a manual reminder in your calendar to check the content every three months. Or it could be a workflow, for example in SAP Enable Now, to send the finished content to a subject matter expert to check once a specific milestone or target date is reached.
The point I want to make is that however you live the maintenance process, the important thing is that there is a process at all.
Use a writer’s little helpers!
To stay on top of the maintenance work, you can use several features already at your fingertips within your authoring tools – in this example, in SAP Enable Now.
- Versioning: Look at the versioning logs to see when the content was last updated and by whom. You can use the versioning settings to define if a new version should be created with any change or if you want the authors to decide when it’s time for a new version. If you only create new versions with large changes, you will be able to use this feature to check when the last major update was made to any content.
- Workflows: SAP Enable Now comes with a built-in workflow engine. You can define your own content workflows or only use the statuses available to bring some order into your content process flow. For example, you could create a status like “Check in Q1 2024” and then use the Status Report in SAP Enable Now Manager to see all content which needs to be checked.
- Review: Another little helper is presented in Anton Mavrin‘s original blog “Keep it simple, SEN” and several follow-up blogs. It describes a useful browser extension which helps a lot with the review and workflow process and can also be used when defining a maintenance workflow.
Keep in mind that on top of these standard functions, there’s always the option to engage a consultant or partner to work with you to create custom property fields and scripts in Producer.
The only constant is change. Really.
So, you’ve set up your process, you’re using the workflows, but you feel like you’re missing the final step to communicate about these updated eLearnings with your readers?
Maybe you only want to update your content and keep quiet about it, working in the background like a hidden puppet-master while making sure all the enablement content is up to date and available. But maybe you also need to inform your readers about changes occasionally, or you want to do your work in a more proactive and communicative way?
I believe that while it’s important to keep everything running smoothly in the background and not involve the readers in the daily hassles of a content creator, there’s nothing wrong with actively sharing information about new content, process changes, or new features.
Within SAP Companion, the in-app delivery channel for SAP Enable Now, you can several options to push specific content to your users. In addition, there are options for online libraries as well.
- What’s New: as previously explained in more detail in this blog about change management with SAP Companion, the What’s New feature set allows authors to mark dedicated in-app content as “What’s New” to highlight it to end users.
- Instant Help Bubbles: This is a great way for authors to add icons to the screen which are displayed without the user having to open the SAP Companion side panel. Instant help for any user at specific error-prone areas on the screen helps a lot with overcoming obstacles before they occur and to reduce tickets. Activate the “On Hover” function to allow mouse-over display of bubbles on top.
- Recently updated content in online libraries: You can create an area directly on the first page of your online library which shows the most recently updated content. This way, your users will find new information more easily. The SAP Enable Now Info Center has been using this trick for a couple of months and has gotten great feedback.
A trusted advisor for your end users
In the end, it’s all about trust. If your readers realize that they can trust your content because it’s up to date and it’s relevant for them they will come back and begin to rely on it in their daily work.
Maintenance might sound like a boring topic, a bother maybe to take care of later, but it’s a really important step in building confidence with your audience.
I hope this blog helped you step into the shoes of your users and start to think about how having a maintenance process can enhance the value of your work as an author. If you have additional ideas or best practices to share, please feel welcome to use the comments below!
And speaking of helping hands and a reliable companion – have a look at this SAP Companion video if you haven’t seen it already:
Come and join the new Information Architecture Group if you’re interested in more content and thought leadership topics around user assistance writing and information architecture.
Great blog post Kristina!
Content maintenance is important topic, especially when you are embarking on the in-app help train. My customers who use statuses as the content validity markers are asking for a feature that will remind the responsible person about the content review once it reaches the milestone (not the SAP Enable Now milestone).
Example: the content object is created with the metadata "Updated every 6 months"
In 6 months after the latest content object update SEN sends a reminder to the assigned author or the workarea feedback receivers about the content review necessity.