IT Documentation Best Practices For Effective Troubleshooting

IT Documentation best practices and tips for employees

Why do you document a process? To ensure its smooth execution, Right? 

That’s the core of any documentation. Take IT Documentation, for instance. It comprises step-by-step processes of how to troubleshoot basic as well as complex IT-related issues. 

The document’s central objective is to arm your employees with self-help and enable them to  fix technical bottlenecks without approaching your support desk for assistance. 

This has multiple advantages:

  • It reduces the workload of your IT support staff as ticket inflow drops 
  • Employees become self-reliant and can resolve issues faster 
  • The IT support team gets a handy resource to refer to while dealing with internal support tickets

Let’s explore more about IT documentation and its best practices in the next section.

What Is IT Documentation?

IT documentation acts as a one-stop help center where your employees can look for solutions to any issues related to: 

  • Internet connectivity
  • Data backup
  • Hardware or software issues in computer systems
  • Data privacy concerns
  • Installing and setting up a tool and many more. 

Let’s be honest. Most of the employees do not have the necessary IT skills. Therefore even simple things like clearing cache and cookies, computer running slowly, freezing of the computer system, slow or unresponsive browsing, etc., look like an uphill task. 

Usually, employees are clueless about what to do in such situations. An online IT document can come handy here. 

It comprises the troubleshooting techniques of basic and complex IT issues that employees can instantly refer to and promptly resolve their issues. 

Now that you know how critical an IT document is for your employees let’s learn about the IT documentation best practices that can be followed for excellent results. 

Best Practices for IT Documentation

#1. Simplicity Works Wonders

Be as simple as you can. That’s the best mantra for creating a powerful IT document. 

Understanding technology and how it functions is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some employees might find it frustrating. On top of that, if your online documentation is also full of jargon, steps not clearly explained, and technical information that’s difficult to digest, it will defeat the purpose of creating an IT document. 

But, it can’t be denied that IT terms and concepts are technical to the core. So, how can it be simplified for readers?

You can either have a glossary section at the end of the document, or even better – use tooltips, lightboxes, and popups to grant immediate help right when employees need it. 

Each one of these has a different use.

  • A tooltip is great for explaining terms and concepts, product features, and giving informative clues. If you hover the cursor over the ? sign, a box will pop up – that’s a tooltip explaining how a user can change a password. 
  • There can be nothing better than a lightbox if you want to explain a process interactively. Lightboxes come with a scroll bar effect making it easy for you to provide exhaustive help to employees. 
  • Popups are an excellent medium to explain concepts using interactive content. It also comes with a scroll bar effect that makes it ideal for providing comprehensive information.

#2. Structure the Content Well

Since IT documentation will be frequently used by employees to troubleshoot technical issues, a significant amount of focus should be given to its structure and design.  

For a well-structured document, ensure that it comprises of the following: 

  • A table of contents to give readers a glimpse of what they can expect in the document
  • Categories and sub-categories for seamless navigation
  • Professional-looking themes that match your company’s branding guidelines
  • Short titles and paragraphs
  • Careful use of the different font styles
  • Accurate formatting to highlight key points. Italicize, bold, highlight and underline important sections, paragraphs or lines
  • Your company’s logo and brand name on the home page
  • FAQs on the home page to ensure employees get what they want instantly
  • In-app help widget to provide instant content suggestions to employees

Check the examples given below-

IT documentation exampleImage Source: mimosa

This is a screenshot from Mimosa’s help center. Can you see the outlines of the sections in red? 

These boxes show:

  • Mimosa’s brand name on its online documentation’s home page
  • A table of contents in the left
  • Popular articles beneath the search bar for readers’ convenience

IT documentation content writing styleImage Source: mimosa

Here the highlighted section points towards the short and straightforward title – “Radio Unlock Process” and steps mentioned in bulleted form. Any reader will hardly take a few minutes to understand a concept if it’s written in such a clear way. 

#3. Drive Engagement Using Multimedia

Multimedia can do wonders. This stands true for any documentation you are creating

A text-only document will fail to establish the impact that a multimedia-rich document can leave on readers. 

Adding images, videos, and screenshots supplement the written content and make your document engaging, interesting, and worth-browsing for employees. 

Who wants to go through an IT document that’s full of black and white text? There might be a few exceptions, but most employees will avoid using such a document, and instead prefer raising a ticket. 

An excellent way to avoid this is by having a perfect blend of text, images, screenshots, and videos. This concoction is tremendously helpful in: 

  • Demonstrating how a process or task should be completed
  • Providing a better understanding of technical concepts
  • And, most importantly giving a rich and engaging experience to employees

Look at the example below to understand how multimedia can help-

Mimosa IT documentation examplesMimosa best IT documentation example

Image Source: mimosa

Here each step of the process is demonstrated using real images of the product. Likewise, your IT document should use a lot of images and screenshots, along with the text, to give a visual tour of how an issue can be addressed.

#4. Diversify the Reach of Your IT Document

IT documentation can be a permanent asset provided it is created, keeping in mind your workforce dispersed across geographies. 

That being said, your IT document should transcend geographical boundaries by being accessible in the native language of an employee. Since you cannot create online documentation in multiple languages, it would be better to give the option to readers to translate content in their preferred language. 

For instance, if you have built a document in English for your U.S. employees, you can allow your workforce spread in other regions of the globe, say France, Russia, etc., to translate the content in their native language. 

You can derive two significant benefits by doing so:

  • You will not have to hire translators that will save you money
  • One document will serve a global employee base thus ensuring that the overall ticket load stays manageable for your IT department

An excellent way to achieve this is by integrating your IT documentation software with Google Translate. It will make your IT documentation available in over 90 languages – isn’t it great? 🙂

integration with google translateImage Source: ProProfs

#5. Make It a Collaborative Exercise

A single person cannot take the driver’s seat when it comes to creating documentation. All your IT team members need to work cohesively to ensure the document’s accuracy and relevance. 

Your IT team should comprise of: 

  • Those who will be in charge of writing and formatting the content
  • Members who take care of the review and editing work, and 
  • Those who will manage the work of writers and editors, and oversee the quality standards of the IT document

Defining each team member’s roles and giving them specific responsibilities will ensure that document creation and maintenance are smooth and fuss-free.

Every member can then work towards meeting the responsibilities and maintaining the quality of the IT documentation so that employees get error-free content.Assign roles to the users in a knowledge base

Watch: How to Collaborate as a Team to Create a Knowledge Base

#6. Make Amendments From Time to Time

Create your document once and use it for a lifetime

Leave it as is without making any amendmentsX

For your IT documentation to be a life-long asset, it needs continuous improvements.

Your IT team will need to assess continually: 

  • which parts of the document are doing well
  • Which sections need some serious rework
  • What kind of information is frequently sought by employees
  • Which articles rank low in the popularity score
  • Which are the most common keywords used to find answers
  • Which pages are frequently visited by employees

If you have IT documentation software, finding this data is super easy. It provides smart reports that give a bird’s eye view of every activity happening in your documentation. 

Tap this data to make your existing articles more meaningful and add new articles on keywords frequently searched by employees. 

Besides reports, you can even evaluate how helpful your IT document is, using Qualaroo. It’s a powerful tool that enables you to take surveys and get useful insights right where your employees are in the document. 

Watch: How to Analyze Your Knowledge Base Reports

#7. Data Security Is Paramount

Since IT documentation is a window to your company’s network system, it needs a guard against any security breaches. 

The best way out here is an IT documentation software tool that offers a robust security mechanism. If it does, ensure that – 

  • You authenticate users by enabling single sign-on (SSO)
  • Restrict viewing and log in access to specific IP addresses only
  • Add conditions to hide or display folders to a particular audience
  • Set conditions for hiding or showing pages to a specific set of employees

This can be instrumental in keeping confidential information present in your IT document in a secure zone. 

Checkout: 20 Best IT Documentation Tools of 2020

IT Documentation: Imperative or Effective Troubleshooting

Your IT documentation doesn’t have to be dull. It needs to be an information-packed document that can be of real help to employees whenever they face a technical issue. 

It should handhold them when they get stuck somewhere and make them self-reliant over a period of time.

Besides fixing their immediate problems, IT documentation trains employees on how to tackle IT-related bottlenecks with ease. It makes them familiar with various IT concepts, terminologies, your company’s network system, and much more. 

Follow the above given IT documentation best practices to make your document perpetually helpful for your employees. 

In case you feel we have missed something, please let us know in the comment section below.

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About the author

Brayn is a knowledge management expert. He has been published in CustomerThink, PointVisible and Apruve. As a customer support specialist at ProProfs, Brayn has been instrumental in building a robust knowledge base and documents that help support executives keep every customer delighted. You can catch up with Brayn on Twitter and LinkedIn.