Email has become a universal conversation mechanism for business to business notification, customer to business communication, you name it. If you’re not doing so already, you can add email links so that readers can send emailed feedback to your technical documentation team. With advanced mailto markup you can automatically enter a subject line, indicate who the email will go to, as well as enter courtesy copies and blind courtesy copies to additional people. Your inbox should not be overwhelmed with feedback emails, but a link should give customers the feeling that their comments are collected and concerns addressed. This is conversational documentation at its simplest.
var subject = “Help feedback: ” + document.title
var bodytext = “Topic: ” + document.URL + ” – ” + document.lastModified
var pagesubject = “Link to topic: ” + document.title
var pagebodytext = “Topic: ” + document.URL
//output an email link
document.write(‘ | <a href=\”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=’ + pagesubject + ‘&body=’ + pagebodytext + ‘\” title=\”Email this page\”>’);
document.write(‘Email us</a> |’);
Some of the benefits of this approach is that email is simple and universally understood by customers. An email link offers a feedback mechanism without much overhead programming or implementation. But you may need to watch out for email collection robots that take your email addresses from the mailto code and use it for spam purposes. Also, you might not get the type of feedback you want, such as people only reporting typos, rather than offering substantial additional information.
I’ve got an article that will be published on the WritersUA site soon with additional conversation and community documentation examples, but this one is a great starting point if you have your help site on the Internet but haven’t started interaction with customers at all.