Noz Urbina, content strategist and Senior Consultant and Business Development Manager for Mekon Ltd., presented a talk at LavaCon in the content strategy track called “Giving Customers What They Want: Integrating Content in the Product Development Cycle.” He highlighted the opportunity to discover and build more intelligent customer benefits through the integration of content strategy during product development. He explained how this approach allows professionals to discover more proactive ways to get customers the helpful content that they need.

Urbina encourages us to reinvest the insights and lessons we learn from content and the user journey directly into the development lifecycle. With development teams and stakeholders in alignment with such a vision, this initiative grants us access to frameworks to build more intricate deliverable opportunities, such as embedded user assistance.

He points out numerous opportunities to learn from our current content from the many content infrastructures that organizations use from day to day, but to try applying these insights elsewhere. Rather than using what we learn to only improve external documentation, we can make better use of these insights by introducing them into the product development lifecycle. This can empower the creation of intelligent support content, like embedded methods to assist and bring additional value to users who need help during an experience.

He illustrated his point by showing us examples of advancements in embedded user support content, where help is given contextually to the user without breaking the user experience. The Abelton (a music production app) experience is an example of assisting the user when and where they need it without breaking the user stride.

However, Abelton currently provides this content to the user through a hand-crafted content methodology. While useful to the end-user, maintenance, translation and reproduction is costly down the road without structured, sustainable content practices in place.

Embedded documentation can be sleek and efficient if we listen to Urbina’s advice and start integrating content strategy principles into product development.

We aren't helping customers if we're annoying them.

"When a customer uses software and gets bothered by documentation, there's a high chance that they'll hate the software," said Urbina.

Rather than develop aggravating documentation, Urbina emphasized focusing on the fact that customers don’t care where the answers come from– they just want it in a way that will let them continue enjoying the product.

This means creating help documentation beyond the “Help” menu or FAQ link. What we learn about our users can be integrated not only into future content development, but also product development, if our developers allow the input. This is a whole other fight, depending on what kind of organization you’re at. The big idea is that these insights can fuel non-intrusive embedded user assistance practices, making product use more enjoyable.

Get colleagues onboard by intruding business silos and not the user experience.

While Urbina encourages content professionals to take more responsibility for the experiences that we give our customers, there’s still the organizational challenge of getting people onboard with these kinds of ideas. Urbina points out that we can’t forget that businesses are a massive silo that features tons of other silos. Before we can create intelligent, embedded user assistance content, we need to get the right people involved and on-vision, as well as inform and influence leadership to fund and support these initiatives.

When we get that support and backing, we don’t necessarily have to shoot for perfection. Just like how customer relationship and content lifecycles are cyclical, Urbina encourages content professionals to understand that these processes are iterative. The more we do, the more we learn. The more we learn, the more we can improve our content, whether it’s external documentation or embedded help.

Big thanks to Urbina for the great presentation. Stay tuned for more notes from #LavaCon 2012.