The Future of Help Authoring Tools and Their Marketing Value
Help authoring tools (HATs) are professionally used to create the help systems that are placed around computer systems and application software. HATs allow writers to produce help sections using common editors and then importing the entered text into specialized software able to incorporate help with the required software or working elements.
We will present here a functional working definition of HATs and then present their historical evolution since their start. HATs have the capacity and the potential to affect various functions of a business. Here, we discuss their mechanism as well as how they can find new avenues such as improving the marketing of products and services.
How Help Authoring Tools Work
HATs work by using simple formats such as HTML and ASCII compatible text edits. These are then stored and transported as either Win Help files or other formats such as an Adobe PDF or the more common XML format for web-based applications.
Modern HATs are also able to provide index generation and can create a table of contents according to a related set of files. They are also able to incorporate images. Most software also allows easy transactions for the current XML files in order to update the help information posted on web-based servers.
Evolution of Help Authoring Tools
The evolution of help authoring tools is based on the need for creating effective user documentation.
Here’s an example of excellent user documentation created by Mimosa, which offers cloud-managed, fiber-fast wireless solutions, using ProProfs help authoring tool. Notice how their user documentation includes FAQs, installation guides, product specification in a central place.
These documentation tools usually have to be attached to a product, and their aim is to provide help to the user of a product in terms of maximizing the usefulness of a product. Good documentation also lessens the burden of providing product support in the long run.
Modern help authoring tools emerged out of the bulky instruction manuals of the past which were hard to use despite the presence of all the required information. They were mostly difficult to read and too heavy to be used in close conjunction with a product. These days, all consumers are, in fact, looking for online help documentation to better understand the use of their bought products.
The end user (the customer) now enjoys the best customer support through professionally prepared help via a digital authoring system. Software developers have further ensured that they have incorporated all the important elements in available help authoring tools. These tools offer text formatting as well as image formatting features, as per industry standards, to professional writers and technical authors.
HATs allow the creation of FAQs, product documentation and other related elements that help the support departments of any organization. They are also useful in marketing and advertising a product.
Marketers can obtain better information about the product they are representing through an internal FAQ or instruction manual created using a HAT and then pass on that information to clients in order to better educate them through the features and qualities of a product or a service.
Modern HATs have improved to the point where writers can easily produce detailed documentation without the support of coders and IT professionals. They are able to set up borders, formats, and styling features through menus, in just a few clicks, but there is always the option to customize the CSS or HTML to change the look and feel of the documentation.
HATs provide the technological help that allows an organization to improve its external functions as well, like marketing. Modern marketing is based on educating the consumer which requires technology. HATs present information in the most suitable manner in this regard.
LEAP’s help center is a perfect example of how user documentation helps in marketing and advertising a product.
Notice the section titled “New Features,” which updates existing customers about the new developments to the software while creating the impression to potential new customers that the product they are about to buy is a constantly evolving and improving one. Add to this training videos and a popular questions list, and your help center becomes a powerhouse marketing tool.
Help Authoring Tools in the Future
With the advent of more digital products and services, it has become important to create better online help which is able to provide detailed documentation with reference to individual elements of a digital product.
HATs in the future will look to improve their perception from help creators to 360 customer support tools.
HATs allow an organization to improve as a whole due to better access to information. This means that HATs will promote growth in multiple departments of a business by allowing employees to gain the required information when they are using the knowledge base system of their organizations. This will create an integration of superior knowledge, resulting in overall improvements in the efficiency of the business.
Modern trends are showing that HATs will have to use dynamic collaboration models where the different users of a product or service are able to create effective help elements rather than rely on a professional writer who has to write about a product or service regardless of their personal use.
HATs and Marketing
HATs will impact the future of marketing products. They will allow marketers to better represent a product by using HAT-created instruments to quickly satisfy the questions of prospective buyers. Marketers can also carry out their tasks with improved confidence as they can be sure that they can back their information through better means.
Help authoring tools improve the advertising potential in most organizations. They allow them to better back up their marketing claims by offering prospective consumers an information source where they can learn about the different aspects of what is offered to them.
Dynamic Help Creation
Help authoring in the future will be dynamic in nature. A product may be provided to a few testers first who will be able to assess its different elements and produce helping documents and entries in relation to the different sections of a software product. The same dynamic model of help creation can also be achieved with physical products.
The Drive toward Specification
Another trend that will appear in the future of help authoring tools is specialized help tools made available for different market requirements. Different industries have different requirements, and most of them already prefer to obtain specific solutions for their particular needs.
Most tools for help generation will either be used to create online help or curtail to service static elements of products and services in the form of an attached help function within a product. This specialization will drive different innovations forward such as the smart use of pop-up windows and the power of searching will increase with the use of indexing in future.
Using help authoring tools, people will be able to create not only effective knowledge bases but also context-sensitive help such as tooltips, popups and more that help companies deliver precise help to customers – just when they need it.
Here’s an example of how help authoring tools are being used for context-sensitive help that are perfect for onboarding users for your products.
HAT tools allow an improvement in the functionality of websites as well as local knowledge bases. This means businesses and departments especially improve their specific functions by taking help from a complete help document that provides usable information on the functions of a related element. Marketing departments can also improve their efforts further by gaining access to important organizational information.
Many online cloud software products can be presented as a HAT that allows a drive towards specification. It allows marketing departments to efficiently use data about the products and services that they might not have access to otherwise. The improvements for marketers will be numerous as service specification ensures that HATs are used to create information bits for clients as well as the marketers that sell a company’s products and services.
We believe that Microsoft will lose its hold on the help authoring industry, and more cloud-based HAT solutions will appear. Cloud computing will ensure that even small organizations are able to create effective help documents with their products using web- based tools and the feedback system implemented within the online help tools. Online help tools will help marketing of products and will empower marketers with useful information, allowing them to present the authenticity of a product or service.