How to build a multi-million dollar business by putting manuals on the Web

One of the issues we’ve been promoting for many years is the importance for Technical Authors to publish their user guides and online Help on the Web. A surprisingly large amount of companies still don’t offer Web versions, for reasons that include:

  • It’s too difficult
  • Our competitors might read it and reverse-engineer our product
  • Support/Training/Marketing will object

The problem with this approach is that others are likely step in and fulfil this need. One such person is Kyle Wiens, CEO of ifixit.com, who I saw present at the STC Summit 2012 conference last week.

Kyle has built a multi-million dollar business on the back of offering repair manuals that manufacturers choose not to put on the Web. The manuals are available free-of-charge, with ifixit.com making money from selling spare parts.

self-repair manfiesto

Wiens said that if machines in other industries — for example, tractors used by farmers — were to break down over a handful of years and couldn’t be easily repaired, consumers would openly revolt. “In industries where consumers really care about a quality, long-lasting product, there’s no way companies can get away with it,” he said. more

We’ve suggested in the past that organisations publish Help for their competitors’ products, so they can engage with their future customers.

Publishing to the Web provides a path to publishing to mobile devices and tablets. It also means, finally, Technical Author can measure the value of what they produce – how many people want to read it and what they think of it.

Regardless of the objections from other departments, this is probably the single most important thing a Technical Author can do.

Do you agree?

One thought on “How to build a multi-million dollar business by putting manuals on the Web

  1. Agree wholeheartedly! We put our entire doc suite on the web a few years ago (we moved to a wiki) and never looked back. Our sales team can send prospects direct links, our marketing team is happy that our documentation provides more fodder for Google, and we get info on search data and page views. We also add documentation links to forum and blog posts, and we tweet any updates to the docs.

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