Decisions to overhaul any part of HelpDocs are never made lightly.

They usually involve lots of discussions back and forth in Slack before we even attempt to introduce them to the roadmap.

We have to be sure everything we do benefits our users. And like any company who want to do right by their users, we have to be calculated about where we spend our time.

TL;DR: We’ve just completely overhauled the HelpDocs Chrome Extension, and I'll be running through everything in a couple of Live Sessions. You lucky goose!

Often, building out a new feature or revamping an old one can feel like an entirely new product unto itself, complete with difficulties around idea validation. And after reading a comprehensive post about idea validation the other day, from the team at Encharge, I was left feeling vindicated about our revamped Chrome Extension.

For us, it comes down to empathy. A whole bunch of listening to user requests and filtering them to understand what the underlying problem actually is.

I don’t tend to get too involved in this process. Luckily, we have people on the team that're old hands at figuring out the root cause of customer pain points and can, in turn, make sure where we’re allocating engineering time reflects what will help our customers succeed.

Around six months ago, this thinking resulted in a complete overhaul of our text editor. We added a bunch of new features, made some pretty awesome—and much requested—tweaks, and got some great feedback from you all in the process.

A few months later, we turned to revamping our website to reflect our evolving style, culture, and the general HelpDocs tone. I feel like this has resonated with people too. And it’s helped us grow organically at a rate we never expected. 🙃

But most recently, we—meaning the engineers, cause let’s face it, I’d be more of a hindrance 🙈—turned our time and attention to an area with unfulfilled potential: the HelpDocs Chrome Extension.

Out with the Old and in with the New

The truth is, the HelpDocs Chrome Extension has been around for a while. The trouble is, it’s been a little neglected.

Few people really noticed any problem with the extension. We didn’t get any complaints about it and it wasn’t broken. I think the fact that it did what it was meant to do was enough, really.

In fact, in most companies one might look at the extension and say “it ain’t broke, so don’t fix it”.

But here’s the thing…we’re not most companies!

Fact is, The extension got old and it got tired. And like all things that get old and tired, we felt it needed retiring in favour of something new and exciting—though as I write this I’m enveloped by a slight sense of terror as I feel my bones creaking and cracking with every minor movement. 👴

It wasn’t that the old extension didn’t work, per se. It was more that after revamping the text-editor and seeing how much our users love it, we unearthed chasms of unfulfilled potential in other areas. Things we could do that would make our users lives a whole lot easier.

So we got to work. And after a little time and a lot of attention, we are super-proud to be re-releasing the HelpDocs Chrome Extension.

What’s where, when and how?

The main purpose of the Chrome Extension is to make it easier and faster than ever to find and share knowledge base articles from within your browser, without having to head to actually go to your knowledge base.

It’s super easy, too. Once you’re logged in to your knowledge base, you simply click on the browser icon to bring up the Chrome Extension search engine and type your search query.

When you find the article you’re looking for, you can click the title to head straight the full article page, or you can copy the raw URL (e.g. https://...), HTML link (e.g. this kinda thing), or a markdown link (e.g. (this kinda thing)[https://...]). You can also copy the short version of the article—if you’ve created one, and share this instead.

The point is, this workflow is heaps faster than navigating to your knowledge base and using the search function there.

For example, let’s say you’re resolving an issue via a Twitter DM and want to share a link to an article. Well, instead of the rigmarole of having to open a new tab > Head to your knowledge base > Search for an article > Copy the url > Return to Twitter and Paste the url;

Now you can simply open the extension, search, copy and paste from the same tab. Simples! 🙃

But wait…that’s not all! 😮

Of course, we didn’t just stop there. While we were overhauling, it made sense to find other ways the HelpDocs Chrome Extension could be useful, too.

With that in mind, we decided to add a quick way to start creating articles from within the extension. So when a new query comes in that you think demands an article, you can start one there and then without having to actually go anywhere.

We’ve also added a bunch of fast links, including the ability to switch to another account you're a member of, or head straight to your knowledge base.

Finally—and probably most obviously—the extension has had a complete facelift, and now feels much cleaner and more inviting than the old one. It also opens with a most excellent illustration of the HelpDocs Chrome Goose, which is just wonderful!

Tell me More!

In the spirit of helping our users get the most from our software, I'll be dedicating a couple of our HelpDocs Live Sessions to demonstrating the new and improved HelpDocs Chrome Extension.

You can catch the broadcasts at 9am PT on Wednesday 23rd January, or at 12pm GMT on Friday 25th January, and both sessions will be followed by a Q&A. So, remember to come armed with your questions and feedback. 🙃