At AdventNet, our parent company, we offer a host of tools for the enterprise ranging from network management to help desk to log analyzers. We also offer frameworks for OEMs to build their own customized solutions. All these products have quite a lot of technical documentation associated with them.
I joined AdventNet in March 2001 and remember the days when our tech writers used RoboHelp for building the documentation package for our various products. RoboHelp's a nice tool as it allowed easy arrangement of pages based on the Table of Contents, there was an automatic tree view generated in the left hand side panel, there were the Next, Previous arrows in each page for easier navigation, it had a spellchecker and it offered index, content searches. Once the documentation package for a product was done, it was made as a zip file and uploaded to our site. The zip file was then downloaded by our users and extracted to a local directory for consumption.
But the above method of doing help documentation had a good many disadvantages. We will see below how we have overcome these disadvantages by adopting Zoho Wiki and the top reasons for why you should choose Zoho Wiki as your help authoring tool-cum-hosting solution.
1. Accessible from anywhere
A help authoring tool is pricey and needs to be installed in each of the user machines. And you are tied to your PC or laptop for accessing your work. Since Zoho Wiki is available on the web, you can access your help contents for editing from anywhere. When you sign-up for Zoho, you have for free, two wikis with unlimited number of pages.
With the conventional help authoring tool, our team of tech documentation writers always found it difficult to collaborate. Each member had to work on a different page, topic or section and finally it was all brought together. Not so with Zoho Wiki. The wiki administrator can set page-level permissions allowing for fine-grained access control to who sees what. For example, when a product's help pages are being created, the Read/Write Access is set to Group, meaning no one from the outside world can view it. Once the documentation gets done, the Wiki permission is set to Public and everyone is able to access those pages. The same's true for new documentation pages getting added all the time to a Wiki.
3. WYSIWYG Editor
Most wikis need the wiki syntax to be followed. For example you have to write **Zoho** in order to make Zoho appear as bold. This is one reason why wikis haven't proliferated as much. But we want Zoho Wiki to be a wiki for all. It has a powerful WYSIWYG editor which allows you to format text as you like, insert URLs & tables, play with pictures / images etc.
4. Page Organization
The sitemap provided by Zoho Wiki allows creation of sub-pages and lists them as a hierarchical index (folder view) of the wiki pages. Pages could be created and re-arranged easily by drag-and-drop.
5. Version Control
Zoho Wiki saves all versions of a web page. And the evolution of the documentation can be tracked as any two versions of a page can be compared. A page can be reverted back to an older version, if need be.
6. Search Engine Optimization
The zip file we had for our help documentation didn't help when it came to search engine optimization. There were lots of valuable info in those pages which the search engines didn't have access to. But all wikis made public in Zoho Wiki are crawlable by search engines. And the tags you add for wiki pages automatically make up the keywords meta tag. The name of the page is taken as the title tag. Also, Zoho Wiki has a good PR in Google. Since all the wikis you create are sub-domains of the Zoho Wiki URL, you have a nice chance of getting a good page rank, resulting in your pages turning up tops for related search queries.
7. No Expertise needed
There is typically a learning curve involved with any help authoring tool. It takes some time to know all the functions and master them. But with Zoho Wiki, you can hit the road running. Sign up for free with a username / password, get invited to the appropriate wiki and start working on the content right-away.
The pages of a Zoho Wiki are regularly indexed and hence are easily searchable. There is a search box available in evey page where you can type page names, tags, words or text phrases within a page and search for them within a wiki.
9. Customization Options
With help authoring tools, you should have a thorough knowledge of HTML in order to make your web pages appear the way you want. With Zoho Wiki, there are a lot many customization options available. Like having the side panel to the right or left, including your organization logo, customizing the header/footer panes, choosing a skin color etc. There is CSS support too. If you know how to work with style sheets, you can easily make your wiki look unique (like this one, for example).
10. Easy maintenance
Before, we had to upload zip files to our site and it required webmaster's help. Whenever there was a small change/addition to any of the documents, a whole set of steps had to be followed. The tech writer updates the specific page, a new build (a zip file) is made to reflect the changes, the zipped file is mailed to the webmaster team, the webmaster team uploads the build to a test site and mails back to the product team asking for approval, the product team downloads the zip from the test site and sees whether everything's OK, gives approval to the webmaster for uploading to the site and finally the webmaster uploaded it onto the site. Now with Zoho Wiki, it is an one-click process. Make the necessary changes in the appropriate wiki page, save it and you are done. The latest changes get reflected on the site.
Some of the tech documentation that we have on Zoho Wiki : Zoho Invoice, Zoho CRM, Zoho Wiki's itself, Zoho Show, ToonDoo and more. Going forward, we plan to host almost, if not all, of AdventNet's / Zoho's web pages on Zoho Wiki in a phased manner.
Switch to Zoho Wiki now for all your help documentation needs.