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Doc is Dead! How Walkthroughs Changed Salesforce's Content Strategy

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Doc is Dead! How Walkthroughs Changed Salesforce's Content Strategy

Talk given by Gavin Austin, Principal Technical Writer at Salesforce, at STC Summit 16'

Customers no longer have the patience to read online help or user guides. To help customers better understand why they should use a variety of features, and renew their subscription-based apps, Salesforce conducted research to determine the content types that engaged customers most. The result—Salesforce changed its content strategy. In this session, you’ll learn: what types of interactive content we’re creating at Salesforce, why Salesforce moved to interactive content over documentation, and how a large company changed its content strategy and how customers responded.

Talk given by Gavin Austin, Principal Technical Writer at Salesforce, at STC Summit 16'

Customers no longer have the patience to read online help or user guides. To help customers better understand why they should use a variety of features, and renew their subscription-based apps, Salesforce conducted research to determine the content types that engaged customers most. The result—Salesforce changed its content strategy. In this session, you’ll learn: what types of interactive content we’re creating at Salesforce, why Salesforce moved to interactive content over documentation, and how a large company changed its content strategy and how customers responded.

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Doc is Dead! How Walkthroughs Changed Salesforce's Content Strategy

  1. 1. Doc is Dead! How Walkthroughs Changed Salesforce’s Content Strategy Gavin Austin Principal Technical Writer gaustin@salesforce.com @salesforcedocs #stc16
  2. 2. Safe Harbor • Safe harbor statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: • This presentation may contain forward-looking statements that involve risks, uncertainties, and assumptions. If any such uncertainties materialize or if any of the assumptions proves incorrect, the results of salesforce.com, inc. could differ materially from the results expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements we make. All statements other than statements of historical fact could be deemed forward-looking, including any projections of product or service availability, subscriber growth, earnings, revenues, or other financial items and any statements regarding strategies or plans of management for future operations, statements of belief, any statements concerning new, planned, or upgraded services or technology developments and customer contracts or use of our services. • The risks and uncertainties referred to above include – but are not limited to – risks associated with developing and delivering new functionality for our service, new products and services, our new business model, our past operating losses, possible fluctuations in our operating results and rate of growth, interruptions or delays in our Web hosting, breach of our security measures, the outcome of any litigation, risks associated with completed and any possible mergers and acquisitions, the immature market in which we operate, our relatively limited operating history, our ability to expand, retain, and motivate our employees and manage our growth, new releases of our service and successful customer deployment, our limited history reselling non-salesforce.com products, and utilization and selling to larger enterprise customers. Further information on potential factors that could affect the financial results of salesforce.com, inc. is included in our annual report on Form 10-K for the most recent fiscal year and in our quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the most recent fiscal quarter. These documents and others containing important disclosures are available on the SEC Filings section of the Investor Information section of our Web site. • Any unreleased services or features referenced in this or other presentations, press releases or public statements are not currently available and may not be delivered on time or at all. Customers who purchase our services should make the purchase decisions based upon features that are currently available. Salesforce.com, inc. assumes no obligation and does not intend to update these forward-looking statements.
  3. 3. Agenda 1. Why Salesforce moved to more interactive content 2. What types of interactive content we’re creating 3. How we changed our content strategy
  4. 4. Takeaway If you’re not creating interactive content beyond traditional documentation, you risk losing your customers.
  5. 5. Does this kind of content look familiar?
  6. 6. What do customers need from content? •“Simplify documentation… It has always been far too lengthy and time- consuming.” •“If I have to leave a page to do research, I am going away… Having it right in the same place increases productivity.” •“There are a lot of videos about what you can do, but they don’t always show how to do it.” •“All documentation focuses on how-to, but we usually start off needing to know when-to or why-to.”
  7. 7. Why do we write content? Increase customer adoption. Reduce customer cases.
  8. 8. What types of content did we create? 1. Walkthroughs 2. Trailhead 3. Videos
  9. 9. What are walkthroughs?
  10. 10. What do our customers think?
  11. 11. What is Trailhead?
  12. 12. What do our customers think?
  13. 13. What are videos?
  14. 14. What do our customers think?
  15. 15. How did we change our content strategy?
  16. 16. Why did we make these changes?
  17. 17. How has the new strategy improved our help?
  18. 18. How did we train large groups of people?
  19. 19. Takeaway If you’re not creating interactive content beyond traditional documentation, you risk losing your customers.
  20. 20. Thank You! Q&A Time

Hinweis der Redaktion

  • Welcome, brief intro of Gavin--tech writer--and what Salesforce does for those not familiar.
    Background----Doc is Dead (LavaCon 2015)! Lofty statement and claim, which we’ll explain. [Doc ALONE is dead?] in that we need new types to address how users learn and interact with our content to get their work done--prioritizing interactive and visually engaging content types because they’re more effective. Same content in a more discoverable, interactive way. In this workshop, you'll learn why Salesforce moved in this direction with its content and content strategy.
    But first…
  • Keep the lawyers employed: Salesforce is a publicly traded company, and anything you see or hear in today’s preso might not apply to future releases of the Salesforce application.
  • Let’s have a discussion. We’ll share our content strategy, but we want audience to be part of conversation!

    Disclaimer: this is not a tools talk!
  • ‘Doc is Dead’ in that we need new types--re prioritizing interactive content types because it's more effective. Same content in a more discoverable, interactive way. In this preso, you'll learn why Salesforce moved in this direction with its content and content strategy.

    How many of you create help & 'guides'?

    How many of you love reading those types of content or feel you get sufficient help from those types of content?
  • PM role play (“doc all the things!”): Doc all new features, customer feedback, bugs. Try to keep head above water on an agile/scrum development team.

    Limited contact with support and marketing to know if content is useful for customers.

    Follow traditional info model of concept, task, reference, and sometimes FAQ content.

    Use help, videos, release notes, and guides, tip sheets, workbooks, cheat sheets, etc.
  • Do you agree?

    Different users need content to do different things, depending on their experience level and what phase of the learning process they’re in.

    These quotes came from extensive user research done by the Salesforce UE team. Due to our PR team, we can’t really share with you the stats or all the customer quotes, but these summed up a lot of the findings, for not just Salesforce!  
  • A few years ago, due to Salesforce’s massive success and growth, and tons of help content [or as we were planning new content strategy to accommodate Lightning Experience?] we had to step back and ask ourselves this question. We also had to ask it because trust is our number one priority at Salesforce, and we had to ask ourselves if our content was adding to our value/brand of customer trust. Now we ask the Q to you.
    Perhaps another side of the question is why do you get paid to create content? What’s content’s business value?
    These were our answers. And based on customer research and data, we learned that we could do a better job of hitting these two targets.
    The way to hit those targets was not by changing the content so much as its format (“types”), where it’s exposed to customers, and how visual and engaging it is. The interactive content types we’re now using give us these qualities and even encouraged us to better apply these characteristics—info typed, discoverable, visual, and engaging—to the traditional help documentation we continue to write.
  • Now, we’ll go into explaining the types.

    Still use concept, task, reference, and sometimes FAQ--but need it to be discoverable, learn, do.

    For scale – Plus graphics, minimalism, voice and tone.

    We make them accessible through the UI and promote them where it makes sense based on how users need to consume the content. We make them more prescriptive (use-case focused, examples) and visual (new graphics specialist). We could give one example of when we'd use a content type other than a walkthrough (a help topic or video, for example) and why a writer would make that choice. 
  • Originally created for marketing purposes….started a new content trend for us.
  • We can’t give you the exact data, but we can give you some anecdotal….
  • Trailhead: >700% growth in active users over 6 months

    Modules (learning with challenge questions to test your knowledge and make you think) vs. Projects (hands-on practice w/code verification to make sure you’ve followed a set of steps; used for events)
  • “Not your typical, boring technical writing.”

  • More videos w/ dedicated specialists

    Embedded in UI

    Now more interactive with links to additional resources from within video itself
  • We’ll get to the reasons why this is, the history.
  • Instead of putting most content in help and release notes, we streamlined a pattern based on what our customers ask for; and we prioritize interactive content over traditional content. We have a content menu, if you will. Not all customers want the same types of content. But we can put it where they’re most likely to find it and need it.
  • Simplified the number of deliverable types we produce to narrow the options and make content easier to reuse and maintain.

    Still use traditional help documentation (concept, task, reference, and sometimes FAQ)—
    but we’re conscious of how we deliver content based on how users might need to consume it (discover, learn, do),
    opting for more engaging interactive content when possible.


  • Optimize traditional help documentation to align with new content standards based on more engaging interactive content our customers love.

    Highlight how example is:
    Minimalistic (only the high-value content users need, not everything you can do with a feature)
    More friendly voice and tone
    More prescriptive (use-case focused, examples)
    Visual (new graphics specialist)
  • shared content plan early on – iterative Scrum

    dedicated trainings with cool themes to make more engaging

    guidelines: wiki and colorful desk references [add screen shots]
  • Repeat the most important message…if you heard nothing else today of value…
  • Q&A time – my favorite

    Reach me on LinkedIn if I’m not able to get to your Q

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