When developing client websites I frequently come across the need to leave some supporting documents or tutorials for them on how to use the site. Before I used to give them a PDF help document, but nowadays I find it easier to record a screencast showing them how things are done. Whether you prefer to include text or image based instructions, or whether videos and screencasts are more your thing, we’ve got you covered with today’s plugin review.
The following plugins are all targeted to developers, enabling them to add help functionality to the sites they develop for clients. If you are not giving any help to your clients, or if you are looking for a more efficient way of providing help and support, you will definitely love these plugins.
This excellent plugin by WordPress guru Mark Jaquith enables you to add posts providing instructions to the site’s users. The plugin will create a new entry under ‘Dashboard’ named ‘Publishing Help’, and automatically add a table of contents from which the user can choose. The help pages will open alongside the contents so quick access to all topics is always maintained. Of course, you can enter any kind of content you want into the help pages, which are based on custom post types.
I’ve used it to enter videos from Vimeo or YouTube for example. Perfect for customized client sites. Never send another “here’s how to use your site” e-mail again! A solid plugin, highly recommended. The things I would improve in this plugin are the ability to change the wording of the menu item ‘Publishing Help’ and also to be able to place it as a main item rather than a sub item under ‘Dashboard’. It would also be nice if one could add a default help page to open immediately when one accesses ‘Publishing Help’, as currently just the table of contents is shown.
EMC2 Custom Help Videos
With EMC2 Custom Help Videos, you can easily add a video player to your dashboard.
EMC2 CHV parses an external web page for video files and records them inside the local WordPress installation. This means that developers can host all of their videos in a directory on their local server and update a single location when new videos come out – all of your plugins looking at your video directory will be automatically updated. This is a great feature if you want to keep your videos centralised on one server instead of having videos on each client’s server. If you want to include tutorial videos that are common to all your clients this is very convenient, as you just update one source and all your clients will immediately be able to access the updated videos.
The CHV settings page allows developers to select the desired videos (your clients may have different needs) and attach notes to each video – the notes display on the dashboard as the user changes videos. EMC2 CHV uses jPlayer (http://jplayer.org) to display videos in an HTML5/flash-fallback format.
I think this is one of the best plugins out there, and has an excellent implementation. The plugin is still young and the developer behind seems to be committed in developing it further.
SH Contextual Help
This plugin is a very customisable one, it adds a new menu item (optional) in your Dashboard, and you can even choose the wording from this menu item. It allows you to insert help content either on this new page it creates within the dashboard, or else by using the contextual help on each page of the dashboard, or even by adding a widget on the dashboard’s main screen.
The only problem I found with this plugin is that shortcodes don’t work when I create the help page. Therefore it’s tough to include video unless you use the embed code given by sites like YouTube and Vimeo. When I tried to include self-hosted files using shortcodes from plugins like JW Player for WordPress, or Viper’s Video Quicktags, they didn’t work.
WP 101 Plugin
The WP101 plugin works in a very similar fashion as WP Lifeguard, but gets its videos from the WP101 video tutorial site. The content and video quality of this website is really excellent and I recommend it to you if you want to include general WordPress usage videos for your clients. As with the WP Lifeguard plugin, the downside is that you cannot add your own video tutorials.
Integrated Video Tutorials
Integrated Video Tutorials make it quick and easy to put professional support videos right inside the WordPress dashboard. It is ideal for:
- Developers who want to provide easy support built right into clients’ sites
- MultiSite networks that need to support users of all skill levels
- Anyone that likes helpful videos at their fingertips
Some of its features:
- Over 40 quality, unbranded support videos that are automatically updated with new versions of WordPress!
- Ability to add videos to the help dropdowns throughout the admin dashboard
- A customizable tutorial page featuring all of the videos. Customize the menu location and title. Put it under Dashboard, make it a Top Level menu, put it under our Support System plugin menu, or use no page at all.
- Copy and paste shortcodes to embed specific video tutorials anywhere on your site. Embed code automatically adjusts for pages viewed over SSL!
- Register your domain with our video API quick and easy right in the plugin’s settings menu!
All these plugins are of excellent quality, and all have some unique features. So how do you choose which one to use for your project?
When you are developing for a particular client, chances are that you won’t want the tutorial videos to be available to anyone else but the client. If you upload to sites like Vimeo, anyone will be able to see the videos, or else you have the option to password protect the videos, however that would make displaying them in the WordPress dashboard impossible. So in this case, I would go for EMC2 Custom Help Videos and host the videos on the client server or your own server. Combined with a plugin for self-hosted video, such as Viper’s Video Quicktags, WP Help can also be used for this purpose. WP Help can in fact be even better if you want to mix videos with text and image media within the help section.
If on the other hand you don’t require the videos to be private, such as when creating a theme for public distribution, WP Help and SH Contextual Help would be perfect, as you can upload the video to Vimeo and then use the plugins to display the Vimeo-hosted videos within the WordPress dashboard.
In case you just want the user to learn how to use WordPress, you can use the WP 101 plugin or even WP Lifeguard.
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