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There are hundreds of little (and big) things we do every day to get our jobs done, and so much that we go about on autopilot. But what may be routine for you is a hurdle for someone else. That’s what the How-to Article template is for: detailing the steps it takes to launch a blog, change your password, update your benefits allocation, and just about anything that goes on in your company. This template is a time-saver that will teach anyone how to fish.
How to use the how-to article template
Step 1. Know your stuff
The how-to article you’re about to create will hopefully be the foundation for everyone on your team – and your company – to crank out tasks, overcome hiccups, and ship projects faster. While you’re an expert at how to get this work done, it’s worth it to take a minute to check with your peers about their process. Compare notes and consider bringing some of their best practices into yours and the document you’re about to create.
Also think about the common questions you get about this task and what questions you can pre-answer to prevent any confusion on the reader’s part – and yourself a lot of extra edits or time spent following up one-on-one. Take, for example, a how-to about updating your direct deposit information in the payroll portal. What questions would they have before they begin? (“How long will it take to process?”) What’s the first step they would take? (Register for the portal and sign in.) What can save them time? (Have your banking routing number and account numbers handy at the start since the portal times out after 10 minutes of idle time.)
Step 2. Create an outline
Got all the facts and sharpest tactics noted? It’s time to create an outline of each step you wish someone to take to check this task off their list. Try to be as detailed as possible with your outline; it’ll make it so much easier to create your how-to article if your outline is tight. At the same time, keep it to 3–5 steps so your reader doesn’t feel like the process is a big time suck.
Remember that some absorb information through reading, others through visuals, others through audio, and yet others by a combination of them all. So, when you’re developing your outline, include notes about any illustrations, graphics, videos, or screenshots you have or will need to make your instructions really come to life.
Step 3. Gather illustrations, graphics, and screenshots
Visuals will add more texture and make your how-to easier to follow. This is an easy step if you already have a library of creative assets from which to choose. If you don’t, take the time to speak with your creative team, third-party vendors, or anyone else who can help you develop and assemble the materials. Pro tip: You can also create the assets yourself with any number of free screenshot browser plugins or online design tools available.
Also gather links to any content that is relevant to this process (pay schedule, for example) that isn’t directly part of the process flow, but could be helpful.
Step 4. Get a second opinion and a third
Your outline is robust and includes all the steps you think make sense. Now’s the time to see if you missed anything or if any step needs more clarification. Run your outline by someone who is familiar with the process to see if they can add anything.
Flesh out your outline into a legit how-to piece using the Confluence template. Once you feel good about the draft, run it by someone who has no clue how this process works and ask them to go through it. Was it smooth sailing or did they hit a snag? And where? Clean up the instructions where your reviewer got stuck.
Step 5. Publish and await feedback
Ready, set, publish! Your how-to is now out in the wild, guiding the lost and blocked and saving you so much time having to answer these questions over and over again. Although you were thorough in your fact-gathering and testing, some in your company may still have questions or confusion.
The great thing about working in Confluence is that the content is open to all; anyone can leave a comment about where they need more help. Plus, Confluence also lets you edit as much as you need to, so any doc is alive and kicking. Feel free to make changes or evolve your docs as your team’s needs and operations change.
Atlassian is an enterprise software company that develops products for software developers, project managers, and content management.
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