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Create a User Guide With WordPress & Jing for Free

With WordPress.com I didn’t need technical help from my overloaded developer team

As my development team at MioWorks rounds the corner on a significant update, I thought it was important to have a user guide that explained the features and told the story of the MioWorks application.  I started looking into online help systems around the open source ecosystem.  It seemed that everything I found was either overly complex or required time from my development & system administration team.

As my frustration level grew I realized that WordPress was a solution I could use.   With WordPress.com I didn’t need technical help from my overloaded developer team.  I didn’t need any training since I already know the application from blogging.  And of course, the price is just right for a start-up company.

You may only think of wordpress.com as a blogging site.  But what you may not know is that you can create content pages in a hierarchy.    I decided to use content pages organized into chapters to mimic a user guide.  I started out by defining the top 5 “sections” of my guide.  I then added subsections to each of those to provide details on different features.  I quickly “stubbed” out the entire site and started to view it in different templates to see how it looked.  I found that using the “Freshly” theme with a custom header made for a nice looking user guide that closely resembled the color scheme of my application – a double bonus!  I applied the theme, uploaded my header and I was happy with the result.

The next step was to assign a domain name to the wordpress.com site.  I choose http://userguide.mioworks.com as the new URL for my wordpress site.  I followed the instructions provided by wordpress, adjusted a CNAME on my DNS records and then paid $9.97 for a year of domain forwarding to WordPress.com.   The site was live and accessible from the URL.

Now it was time to start adding content.  I wanted to not only provide text descriptions but I also wanted to have accurate screen shots that were legible with call outs and numbering when needed.  The perfect tool for this task is  Jing by Techsmith. Jing runs on both Windows and Mac OS.  Jing not only allows you to capture a screen shot, it allows you to quickly annotate that screen shot and save it as a PNG file.   The process to capture a screen, annotate it, save it locally and then upload it to wordpress.com was very simple and fast.

The process of documenting the entire application took a few days but the end result is well worth the effort.  MIoWorks now has a complete user guide that will help existing clients take advantage of all the features inside the application.  It will help guide them on not only the purpose of a feature but includes examples of how those features can be used.  I really like the user guide because it will also serve as a learning tool for potential clients that want to see more before they decide to use our application.

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More Stories By David Abramowski

David Abramowski is a technologist turned product leader. David was a co-founder of Morph Labs, one of the first Platform as a Service plays on AWS. He was the GM for Parallels Virtuozzo containers, enterprise business, and most recently he is the leader of the product marketing team for the IT Operations Management solutions at the hyper growth SaaS company, ServiceNow.