At Eko, technical content is mostly written by the product and support team. It appears in the Knowledge Base, throughout the app, in Eko user manual, and in a few other locations. This section will lay out the guiding principles of technical content, discuss the main types of technical content, and outline the process of writing and editing technical articles.
Someone reading technical content is usually looking to answer a specific question. That question might be broad or narrowly-focused, but either way our goal is to provide answers without distraction.
For each project, consider your audience’s background, goal, and current mood. Ask these questions:
- Is the reader a prospective user, a new user, or an experienced user?
- What is the goal of the reader? To complete a task? To research a topic?
- Is the reader in the middle of a task? Are they in a hurry? Could they be frustrated?
We don’t want to overload a reader with unnecessary information, choices to make, or complex ideas or phrases, when we don’t have to. This is particularly critical when a user may be new and/or frustrated. When relevant, prime the reader with a brief outline of an article’s focus in an introductory paragraph or section, and stick to the topic at hand. Keep sentences, paragraphs, and procedural steps focused and concise.
Drafting technical content
Before you begin writing a new article, reach out to a subject matter expert at MailChimp (like an engineer, tester, designer, researcher, or technical support advisor) to get as much information as possible. You may only use a small portion of what you learn, but it helps to have more information than you need to decide where to focus your article.
Consider how many articles are needed and what article types will best describe a new feature or tasks to the user.
Outline your article, then write a draft. Stay in touch with your subject matter expert and revise as needed for accuracy, consistency, and length.
When you’re happy with a draft, pass it to another technical writer for peer review. Then show it to a lead technical writer for additional review and revisions. For new content or highly complex content, send last draft to your subject matter expert for final approval.
Writing technical content
Stay relevant to the title
When a user clicks the title of an article, they expect to find the answer they want. Don’t stray too far from the title or topic at hand. Use links to make related content available. If you find you’re getting too far from the intended topic, then you may need to create a separate but related article.
Keep headlines and paragraphs short and scannable
Focused users often scan an article for the part that will answer their particular question. Be sure headlines are short, descriptive, and parallel, to facilitate scanning.
Use second-person and describe actions to a user
Technical content talks to users when support agents can’t.
Strive for simplicity and clarity
Be as clear as possible. Use simple words and phrases, avoid gerunds and hard-to-translate idioms or words, focus on the specific task, limit the number of sentences per paragraph. If you must include edge cases or tangentially related information, set it aside in a Before You Start list or Notes field.
Provide context through embedded screenshots and GIFs
Screenshots and GIFs may not be necessary for every article or process, but can be helpful to orient new users. Crop screenshots tightly around the action to focus attention.
Editing technical content
We edit technical content based on three goals:
- Cut or tighten redundancies, gerunds, adverbs, and passive constructions.
- Use the simplest word.
- Limit paragraphs to three sentences.
- Use the labels and terminology used in the MailChimp app.
- Use specific, active verbs for certain tasks.
- Choose basic words and phrases to facilitate consistency across translated content.
- Stay conversational, using contractions when appropriate.
- Avoid qualifiers that muddy meaning.
- Express understanding when appropriate.
- Craft clear transitions from section to section to orient the reader.
Formatting technical content
Technical content uses organization, capitalization, and other formatting to help convey meaning. Although different articles are organized differently, some formatting tips are consistent throughout all technical content.
Capitalize proper names of Eko products, features, pages, tools, and team names when directly mentioned. In step-by-step instructions, capitalize and italicize navigation and button labels as they appear in the app.
- Eko, Eko S
- Workflow tab, Directory tab
- Product Team, Domestic Sales Team
- Click Send Commendation.
Group article content with H2s and H3s. Use H2s to organize content by higher-level topics or goals, and use H3s within each section to separate supporting information or tasks.
- Add Users
- Import your CSV File
- Save Users
Only use ordered lists for step-by-step instructions. Separate steps into logical chunks, with no more than two related actions per step. When additional explanation or a screenshot is necessary, use a line break inside the list item.
Use unordered lists to display examples. If an unordered list comprises more than 10 items, use a table instead.