blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

January 31, 2023

User manual: instruction pages in a SharePoint help site

Filed under: Adoption,SharePoint — frederique @ 20:56

Many employees who need to change the way they work and adopt new tooling, like to get a user manual. Clear instructions on how to do things, that are easy to find and check when they are unsure. So in a project, the client requests that user manual. What they often see in their mind’s eye, is a PDF file or even a printed booklet. But we prefer to offer something different. A SharePoint site with instruction pages.

Clients who were quite sure they wanted a document, changed their minds when they saw how much nicer the help site was.

Advantages of a help site over a document

  • The site can evolve with the evolving tooling it explains.
    When you provide a user manual as a document, the users tend to download it to their computer and maybe even print it. Then the tool changes and you update the user manual. However, all those users are still consulting the outdated copy. If they consult the site, they always see the latest version, with the latest information and the latest clarifications.
  • The site can be richer: video, contact cards, collapsible FAQ,…
    In the SharePoint site, we can and often do include instruction videos to really show how to a feature works. A picture is a thousand words, but a video is even more effective in explaining something complex, especially to an unsavvy user. Please note that we also provide text and screenshots, so that the more savvy user can see what’s what at a glance, without having to spend minutes in watching a video.
  • The information is a site is more accessible than in a document
    Yes, some users may be surprised to see a site instead of a document, especially conservative ones. They are more used to the document. However, the SharePoint pages are more easily readable on a mobile device. You can quickly lead users to specific a section of the manual by linking to a heading on a page.

How we set up the site

We set up a site with the following configuration:

  • SharePoint Communication Site.
  • Instruction pages about the different topics, based on a page template for a consistent structure.
  • The instructions are presented in text, mostly numbered step-by-step lists, with annotated screenshots. Plus short videos, stored in Stream or the Sharepoint site itself, if the organisation does not use Stream.
  • Quick links to the headings at the top of longer pages, as a “table of contents”, so that the readers quickly see what they can find on the page and immediately jump to that section.
  • Quick links leading to related information: “See also”.
  • Quick links leading to online versions of apps discussed on the page: “Open now”.
  • We often include a help & contact page with information and contact options in case the user has additional questions, requests or comments: people web parts with rich contact details, info about the helpdesk, sometimes a Yammer web part with a community about the digital workplace.

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