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Document 360: #1 Knowledge Base Software

"What's Next?" -- A Nice Way to End Help Topics

by Tom Johnson on Jun 28, 2008 •
categories: technical-writing

At the end of many topics in Flare's help, a What's Next? section appears. For example, in a topic on Creating a Table of Contents, the What's Next? feature guesses what you'll want to do next -- enable the table of contents in your target. See the following image.

Having used Flare's help for a while, I really like this What's Next? feature. For me, it works better than the See Also references, which are more common. (One time I asked a user why he never clicked the See Also link as he was looking for information. He said, "I've clicked it before in other help systems and it was never helpful, so I just assumed I'd have the same experience.")

Not every topic in Flare's help has a What's Next? section at the bottom, but I wish every topic did. I'm surprised I don't see this feature in more help systems. It seems like such a logical way to end a topic.

In some ways, it helps provide transitional glue from one topic to the next. People can land anywhere in your help system, but through the What's Next? section, you can recommend where they should go next.

If you add a What's Next? section at the bottom of each topic, it might also provide a better structure for your table of contents layout. In some cases, the What's Next? topic may help you see how the table of contents should be arranged.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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