What approach should be taken when designing end-user documentation for a large/corporate (web-based) software system? Is there industry best-practice that combines good UX with maintainability?
I'm hoping for an answer that focusses on advice for how documentation should be organised and how it should be distributed.
I realise this is a possible duplicate of http://stackoverflow.com/questions/663728/how-do-you-approach-documentation-external-not-in-code-documentation, although that question is primarily related to documentation for an in-house system, or development documentation, rather than customer-facing/user-facing documentation.
I'm doing a review on documentation for a software system. I put web-based in brackets above, because it may or may not impact on the answer... Currently the documentation is a mess of large PDF files and I'm fairly sure none of our users read them. I believe that having bad documentation causes us extra support.
I believe my end result needs the following (although the question partly covers whether this is correct):
- User documentation that provides help on what features are available and how they work.
- Admin documentation on how to setup the system for first-time use and how the administrative features work (e.g. user/record maintenance).
- An installation guide, because it has several components (some of which are optional) and there is no automated installer.
The system is updated on a reasonably regular basis with new features, and the documentation needs to reflect the changes to existing features, or detail any new features.
I'm currently considering web-based documentation for the user and administrator guides - i.e. something like a wiki (but read-only), which is searchable and can easily be added to.
I've found the following question on SE that suggests it's possible to export a wiki to a read-only HTML format: http://webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/23143/how-to-export-all-pages-from-mediawiki-to-hierarchy-of-html-files, but I still need to do more research into different types of wiki and the export tools available... Also, if the export tools don't produce a user-friendly result, the whole exercise is pointless.