Thread tagged as: Showcase, Docs

Building Perch Docs Using Perch

I love Perch.

Moving from a (mostly) static-site building business to taking a structured-content/CMS approach with Perch has been a great move, and one that has allowed the types of sites we can build (and clients that we can land) to increase dramatically.

I keep finding more and more things I can do with Perch, but there's always been one hiccup: documentation for clients. (To clarify: I don't mean Perch docs for developers – I mean end-user docs for the clients.) Dynamic sites require task-based documentation, and that means not a lot of room for generic writing. The ability to add help content within Perch is awesome, but generally I need to supplement that with a PDF file or two that the client can have printed in a binder next to their workstation.

But, as anyone who's tried to create a thoughtful design with screenshots and how-to text in a WYSIWYG like Pages or Word already knows, building docs takes FOREVER. Personally, it's my least-favourite part of the process (and I can't imagine I'm alone here). I've tried single-purpose apps to get around the headaches, but they're always limited at best, and buggy at worst.

And then I had one of "those" moments: I mean, what are clients docs other than structured content? Wouldn't it be cool if a local install of Perch could be tasked with the layout and design of these damnable things?

Long story short: it's cool as heck.

A "page" becomes a topic, multiple "regions" are the tasks, and "repeaters" act as the steps. With some print CSS applied, you can save the output in a properly formatted PDF in a snap. Perch_content_custom drops in some on-page navigation as well, and edits to the docs are super easy. And of course, I can focus on writing good documentation instead of fighting layout in some BS editor.

The next step would be to integrate a customer portal via the Members add-on to give the client access to custom, printable docs, for Perch, from Perch.

I would link to a design, except that it's a local-only thing right now. Hopefully you get the idea though – I'd be happy to elaborate if anyone cares!

[edit: grammar]

Richard Terrick

Richard Terrick 3 points

  • 7 years ago
Rachel Andrew

Rachel Andrew 394 points
Perch Support

That sounds great!

We often get asked if we can create end-client documentation. The problem with that is that because of the flexibility of Perch what one person's client sees is not what another one would see. Especially if folk are really pushing our templates to the max or rebranding the admin.

I think creating your own documentation generator customized to how you set things up for your clients is a great idea - and thanks for sharing your thoughts :)