No doubt you’ve put time and care into crafting your site to be easy to navigate and use, so why do people keep asking you for help on the same topics?

In short, it’s your own fault.

You’ve failed your users. They’ve come to you looking to fill a hole, and while you might be able to fill that hole and more, they just can’t figure out how to get from A to Z using your site.

It’s not because they’re dumb, and it’s not because they “don’t get it”.

You’re losing users because you’re failing to teach how they want to be taught. -> Click To Tweet

I want you to read that again, and let it sink in.

You might have created a site that you think is super easy to use, and you may have a knowledge base that is filled with everything anyone could possibly need to do anything with your site…

But as we found out the hard way (which led to the birth of, most people just don’t care about your knowledge base. They don’t want to have to go and browse through all your documentation just to find out how to complete a seemingly simple task.

They’ve got better things to do with their time.

Think about it – how many times have you read a manual cover to cover? How often have you even just browsed one?

If you’re like me, you probably threw the manual out with the box. Then when you had an issue you looked it up online, called the manufacturer, or sent an online support request which adds to their overheads and operating costs.

It’s not what the manufacturer intended, and definitely not what they wanted, but that’s how we as consumers operate.

Like it or not, the same dance is happening on your site every day. Your users want to learn the way they want to learn, and if they can’t, they leave.

So how do you teach them the way they want to be taught?

Put yourself in the shoes of your users

Think about who your user is. Go as far as to make a few sample users, complete with names and a back story.

This will help you to almost put a face to your users, and be able to take on a persona. Then think about how this person might want to resolve an issue when they hit a hurdle with your site.

Now that you’re thinking like your users, you can know where you can improve your education.

A few approaches they might take are:

The ‘experimenter’

If they are likely to experiment and figure it out themselves then you’re in luck, but adding a few cues around the place will make this process much easier.

Tooltips are great for this kind of user. It keeps your docs tucked away, and lets them explore your site and just click on little prompts here and there for a touch extra help.

The ‘searcher’

This kind of person knows what they’re after, and are happy to go looking for help.

Provided you’ve got your content in a format that allows for easy searching on a range of topics, they should be able to find what they’re after and move forward.

The danger with these users are if they (think) they know what to search for, but can’t find the help they need, they’ll assume your documentation is lacking.

The ‘browser’

Some people are happy to browse your documentation. It’s a good way for them to learn about features that might be hidden that they otherwise may not have found, or to find better ways to use your site.

The current problem with existing knowledge bases, is that they take the user offsite and can lose context when read on a standalone page. It also means you’d better be sure that all your documentation is in a meaningful structure, or they’ll get lost and overwhelmed quickly.

A better option is to allow them to browse and read your documentation while they are still actively using your site… more on this later.

The ‘I have no idea’

These are dangerous, and you’re likely losing a lot of these users.

This is when someone has a problem, but they’re not quite sure how to explain their problem. This means they can’t search for it, because they don’t even know what to search for.

Hell, they don’t even know what articles to open if they browse your knowledge base.

So they just assume your site is too complex, and they make the decision to cut ties early before they invest too much time.

This is a case where showing contextual support, allowing users to click on items on your site to learn about them can have a huge payoff.

Additionally, being able to show a list of help articles that are related to the task they are currently working on can be the difference between them thinking your site is just too hard, or that your site is built with them in mind.

The ‘no fluff’

This group might know that you have a knowledge base, but they also know that if they just ask you directly in an email or support ticket, the know they’ll be able to get the response they want without having to put the effort in themselves.

While they might sound like a pain, remember that these kind of people are also the kind that once they are happy with you, they’re likely to stick around for the long run. So you need to keep them happy.

Answering their emails in a timely and accurate manner is obviously a high priority. It lets them know that they can trust you to help them out in future if they get stuck on something else. They feel safe that if they go into business with you as a paying customer, they’ll be looked after, and not just left to their own devices.

But don’t forget, they still want the answer yesterday. And the more of these users you get, the more load you get on your support backlog.

This is another case where proactive support and page related help are great to combat. By proactive support, I’m talking about showing them the help they are likely to need, right now.

The ‘need it now’

These are expensive.

They want the answer right now, they don’t have the time to wait for you to respond to an email, and they certainly don’t have the time to search your knowledge base in the hopes of finding what they’re after.

They know that calling you, and speaking with someone is the fastest and surest way for them to get the result they want.

They just about expect 24/7 availability to you, and that’s tough to do if you’re not huge.

In these cases, it’s imperative to provide proactive support and pre-empt the questions that are going to be coming in, and make sure you’re spoon feeding the specific help these users are likely to need at any stage of their account.

Adding contextual and page related support is a perfect solution to these users. Being able to provide timely help on the task they’re currently working on is a huge benefit and crowd pleaser.

In the end, it’s your own fault if your users keep asking the same questions -> Click To Tweet

Examples of contextual and related support.

So what of this ‘contextual’ and ‘related’ support? How can you do this?

In its simplest format, you can get away with adding in a bunch of links on your site to your documentation. Say someone is (for example) adding an item to their online store: for issues like how to upload images, which need a bit more explaining, you can have a link to a full page explaining how big their image needs to be, what format etc.

If it’s something that only needs a little information, you can add tooltips to your content. These are great little helpers you can place around your site to give the user a quick tip without having to lead them away to a new page for help.

You can see examples of how to use code to add tooltips to your site with packages like qTip2

A streamlined alternative

An better and easier alternative, is to use a service like to display an entire knowledge base in a tab on your site, using a simple management area to add tooltips and contextual links to any page without ever needing to touch your code (like this. Go ahead, click it). You can also use it to show related articles based on the page the user is currently on.

Using elevio, when a user needs help they can find it instantly, and read the documentation right in the same page that they’re currently using on your site (like this). Gold.

This is the bread and butter of elevio.

Do you know of other types of users, or other approaches to proactively help users? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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