This article describes the structure of an app help page and how to make the actual page.
Congratulations, you’ve made an amazing app!
If it is the first time that you have done this, then you are probably all over YouTube right now searching for advice on how to market your app. Marketing is very important but there is one thing that is even more important and that is your app help page.
The app help page
The person how designed an app knows everything that can be done with it but the user is not so lucky which is why an app help page is needed. So how does one make this page? Where to start?
Good news. Your app is done which means that you are able to make screenshots. Having screenshots makes explaining various functions a lot easier not to mention the most users these days are visual learners anyway. Screenshots take care of the pictures and although a picture tells “more than a 1ooo words”, when it comes to instructions, that is not true. Far from it.
Before you start working on the actual help page you should do one or two YouTube videos that show a new user what the app is all about and what it can do. Most new users who need help will probably opt for watching an explainer video before they read specific instructions. Making the how-to video isn’t has hard as it used to be. These days, some inexpensive software captures whatever goes on on the screen and gives you tools to do some basic editing.
We use Camtasia on a Mac but there are quite a few products out there that let you make a useful video that shows your app.
Writing instructions is not easy because the writer is the person who knows everything about the app as well as the reader who needs to see it with the eyes of a new user that knows nothing about the app. Bigger companies have it easier because they don’t use the same person for doing both jobs but little indie startups like Little Composers is not as fortunate. However, that doesn’t mean that writing an app help page is too much headache to bother. The opposite is true.
Here is a tested formula that can help you write your app help page and make is useful too.
After the video, take screenshots of the UI and key areas of your app and start describing what the user should look for. Some areas are crucial while others can be ignored at the beginning. Start with the most important points first and tell the user how to load and how to quit the app. It those tasks are obvious, then you can skip that step.
Use a word processor like Open Office or if you own of have access to MS Office, then use that to hammer out the instructions.
When you have them, then decide how you want to serve the help page. Here, at Little Composers, we simply create an HTML page for every app which opens when the user touches or clicks on the help button that is placed somewhere prominently inside the app.
Doing and HTML based help page has a lot of advantages compared to some instructions that get included with the app. Having access to the web server, you can constantly tweak and update as needed. If you include the help with the app, then you would have to update the app everything something changes. For that reason, it’s better to separate the help page from that app.
It’s also helpful to have some links on the help page so that the user doesn’t have to read everything and jump to the desired information with one click. To make that work, separate the main points and include an anchor tag which you can link to with a link or a group of links.
Reak help page example
The biggest advantage of HTML based pages is that fact that you can right-click and look at the source. Creative people are good at reverse engineering and that is all you need to do in order to make your own killer help page.
Virtual Music Teacher is a simple app. The help page features one explainer video right at the top and then a screenshot of the UI. After that, the user can decide what she/he wants to learn about in more detail. Having said that, it’s best if you have a look for yourself:
One last thing
If you want to go the extra mile, the I suggest that you add a feedback form to the help page. Let’s just face it, no matter how much you write, you will NEVER cover all the possible topics. Having a form is a good way to give the users one more tool to get the information they need and it gives you the advantage to augment your instructions according to what the users ask. Between looking (at the source) of other help pages and knowing your app inside out, you should have no problems to create a decent help page. After that, it’s all about listening to the users and adding what you’ve missed.
Have fun making your help page and if you have any tips for us than we’d be happy to hear from you. Thank you for reading! 🙂