Let's face it. Making documentation for end-users (content editors, administrators, etc...) is the most painful process of all the processes when it comes to handing over a project to the client. Hard to estimate, time consuming to create, never up to date, almost impossible to re-use, change one thing and you have to rebuild all the screenshots, realisation that nobody reads it, etc... Sounds familiar?
Say hello to Inline Manual
Five years ago I blogged about an idea I had - Learn as you go concept which was aiming at bringing more interactive help to the Drupal projects, to let users learn by doing the tasks they were instructed to fulfil. This bothered me for some time, we were always struggling with the documentation and giving support to clients. Don't take me wrong, we loved to help our clients over the phone or emails, but it was time consuming and not really efficient. They usually forgot what they were doing month ago.
After the first step 9 months ago, I conducted over 40 interviews with web shops all around the world. One of the major results > everyone was struggling with the documentation! It is a pain! It is a bigger pain than everyone can imagine!
After 9 months of hard work, I am happy to say that we produced something amazing (yes I know, Steve Jobs like words =). We call it Inline Manual and it is in open beta now! A service that allows you to create, re-use, distribute and collaborate on web app documentation with others. The resulting documentation is interactive in a way of using tooltips, thus guiding the users across the whole application on theirs installation.
The concept is quite similar to code sharing websites like github or bitbucket. You can create unlimited amount of public or private topics (tutorials). Topics you will make then available on a site you created for your client either by using 3rd party integration module or exporting the whole player code by just embedding stand-alone version. All topics data are stored locally on yours web-server giving you full freedom.
The best part is that you can re-use public topics that were created by others such as "How to create a user" on all your Drupal sites. With just few clicks you can create and distribute whole documentation and its versions to all of your sites. Or you can copy (fork/clone) existing topic to your account and adjust as needed based on the configuration of your site - add a step or two if you like.
The Drupal module has some specifics and can be found here: http://drupal.org/project/inlinemanual. Like showing topics based on the users role. Feel free to extend it and commit a patch!
Try it now!
If you like, go ahead and try it yourself by clicking the blue icon at the bottom right corner on InlineManual.com.
I believe this will help to streamline the documentation process and allow collaboration and re-usability of docs for web applications!