Maslow Hierarchy of Needs in Documentation Development

In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow published his famous work, in which he identified five categories of needs that motivate a person: physiological needs, the need for security, the need for belonging and love, the need for respect and the need for self-actualization.

Today this theory is known as the Hierarchy of Needs and is usually depicted as a pyramid. The main idea is that a person begins to experience the needs of a higher level only after satisfying the needs of the lower levels.

This theory applies not only to motivation, but also to user experience. Despite the fact that the pyramid of needs was created for use in psychological analysis, it can be modified to study user behavior in today’s digital space.

We strive to design MongoDB documentation so that users can achieve their learning goals as efficiently as possible. Based on the theory of the pyramid of needs, we created the basis for our projects, which took into account the basic principles of Maslow. We call this concept the hierarchy of needs when developing documentation.

Level 1: existence and basic needs

Existence is the first level of our hierarchy of needs when developing documentation. This is the most primitive level: if the content does not exist, it cannot be used. For content to exist effectively, the platform must:

  • allow authors to write and publish documentation;

  • have an intuitive interface that provides users with seamless access to content.

To address these challenges, the developers of the documentation platform have created a set of tools that allow authors to write, view, review, and publish content in a corpus of documents that is accessible to all users.

These are simple tools that don’t take long to learn. Authors can focus entirely on the content of their content. The tools automatically convert content to data in a format that makes it easy to structure, reuse, standardize, and test content. With the old tools, the design and development process did not always go as it wanted, and the flexible interface of the new platform allows you to quickly create content on an iterative basis and makes the work of users with the site materials more convenient.

Thus, our approach simplifies the process of creating, publishing and using content.

Level 2: the need for quality

Quality is the second level of our hierarchy of needs when developing documentation. If the quality of the content is low, there will be little benefit from it.

We conducted a research among users and found out that in order to create quality content, you need to adhere to the following criteria:

  • focus on a custom task or use case;

  • create accessible, useful and informative materials;

  • to create a sense of trust in users and a pleasant impression of working with materials.

With these criteria in mind, we have slightly modified some of the key elements of the user interface. We have updated the home page on the docs platform, and have added product-specific documentation landing pages. Users often start their browsing from these pages, so we focused on creating a positive first impression and ensuring that the user can easily get up to speed.

Documentation Platform Home Page

List of urgent tasks

The list is presented in the form of cards, among which the user can immediately select the desired one and start studying the documentation. To match the user’s thinking model, on each card the task is highlighted against the background of the rest of the text.

Brief introduction

We conducted a survey among users and found that many of them do not quite understand the difference between MongoDB and traditional relational databases.

Therefore, in this section we provide a short description of our offer and recommend additional sources of information.

Links to other learning resources

Here we continue to guide the user along the path to knowledge. At the very beginning of the training, the user will get acquainted with general information about our solution, after which he will be able to move on to learning the basics. And at the bottom of the page, we provide links to other learning resources where you can get new information and get acquainted with our educational platforms.

Document landing pages

Consistency with user goals

At this stage, users begin to familiarize themselves with a specific product. On these pages, the user will learn about all the features of the product and learn how to use it.

Build a pleasant experience and confidence
Building a pleasant impression and confidence

Users who worked with the landing pages during their testing phase noted that this section creates a pleasant user experience and makes them feel confident. The proposed use cases turned out to be relevant, the tasks were easily solved in just a few steps, and it was convenient to work with the materials.

Level 3: the need for search accessibility

Search accessibility is the third level of our hierarchy of documentation development needs. At this stage, the basic needs are finally satisfied, and we move on to work with psychological needs.

To find the necessary information, a person can always use external resources, such as Google. This is certainly not the best solution, but it does meet basic needs.

This year, one of our main goals was to increase search accessibility and improve site navigation.

We identified two main categories of users with different approaches to navigation: advanced users and beginners. Experienced users usually already know what they need to find and are counting on search engine performance. Newbies, on the other hand, research the site and learn more than they look for specific information.

How to ensure search accessibility

We interviewed many users, read a lot of literature and talked to experts to find out what the ideal navigation should be. Here’s what we found out.

Tasks in the spotlight

At every stage of the research, including card sorting and tree testing, we got the same results: navigation features depend on the user’s experience and knowledge.

Therefore, when updating the site navigation system, we took into account, first of all, the tasks that users have to solve. Due to the fact that now the navigation model of the site reflects the user’s thinking model, it has become easier to navigate the materials.

Efficiency and precision are important

Users noted that efficiency and accuracy are the most important factors when searching for content. Many of them, especially developers, measure efficiency by the number of mouse clicks.

To maximize the efficiency of the search engine, we began to provide users with contextual hints. As a result, users were able to determine the most relevant results and apply additional filters to improve search accuracy.

This factor was decisive in the design of the new engine for searching documentation and helped to identify important features for further optimization.

New navigation bar

New search functions

Other improvements

The analytics results after the release of these projects delighted our team, and this inspired us to continue to work on search accessibility and quality. For example, information about user search queries helps us prioritize optimization tasks.

The analytics allowed us to find out some interesting details about the search preferences of users: some use full-screen mode, while others like the modal search box. On this issue, the opinions of users were almost equally divided, and it was difficult for us to decide in which direction to continue working.

Therefore, we decided to leave both options – it only required one additional working day. Now these two modes are used equally.

Great! We believe that by implementing approaches to information search that are convenient for users, we have managed to provide them with psychological comfort.

Level 4: user experience needs

Experience is the fourth level of the hierarchy of needs, which brings the finishing touches to our theory. Here we see users who like the platform and those who were not impressed by it, those who are comfortable working on it, and those who are not very much.

We’ve made internal improvements to the platform that improve the efficiency and productivity of authors and help them create better documentation. Research shows that if an employee likes work tools, they will perform better.

Level 5: the need to contribute

Contribution is the last level of our hierarchy of needs when developing documentation. Having received quality content that is easy to find and convenient to work with, users begin to strive to contribute to the common cause and want to feel like a part of the team.

According to our research, “the need to contribute” includes:

  • a sense of belonging to the work on the documentation;

  • the ability to report problems encountered;

  • community membership.

Open source platform creation

Users who frequently work with documentation can submit pull requests to GitHub. We invite them to realize their potential and help us in the development of the platform – this will allow them to satisfy the need for self-expression (exactly in the sense that this concept is defined by Maslow).

Note: This timeline also includes commits submitted by our staff.
Note: This timeline also includes commits submitted by our staff.

Improving the feedback widget

After receiving user feedback, we have planned the following improvements.

Content mapping

The old feedback widget visually overlapped the content on the documentation site. It could not be removed or hidden.

The new widget is less visible and allows the reader to focus on learning the materials.

The quality of the feedback received

The previous widget was of little use because it did not provide enough context for authors to use to improve the quality of their content.

The new widget now has categories, with the help of which the user can classify his review.

Useful tips

Users often mistook the widget as a means of contacting support. Therefore, we had a huge number of requests for which we could not take any action.

The new widget redirects the user to the resource that best suits their needs – Community or Help Desk.

It also allows users to join the MongoDB Community and find like-minded people there.

Results and lessons learned
Results and lessons learned

As a result, we receive reviews through the widget, which contain only practically useful information about the interaction with the site. A well-thought-out rating system and classification of reviews helped to improve the quality of feedback. The total volume of reviews has decreased – and therefore the volume of work.

Future plans

We focused on the main aspects of user interaction with the site in order to implement an integrated approach to working with documentation. The user is always at the center of our development strategy and product design approach. For us it is very important! In addition, our latest projects provide a solid foundation for further development.

Translation prepared as part of the launch of the course “NoSQL”.

We invite everyone to an open webinar “MongoDB Map-Reduce Framework” Plan first day: CRUD operations; filtering by fields; sort, skip, limit; requests for subdocuments. Plan second day: the concept of map-reduce; pipeline concept; structure and syntax of aggregation; $ match stage; $ group stage; $ lookup stage.

– Learn more about the course “NoSQL”

– Watch an open webinar “MongoDB Map-Reduce Framework”

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