Writing User Documentation for End Users: Tips and Examples

Every product comes with a particular set of instructions. These instructions are often related to the use of the product or how to get the most out of it or how to take good care of it. Instructions are rolled out for all kinds of products right from a simple t-shirt to computer software. This piece of product documentation is preferred by most customers as a self-service customer support channel. Having user documentation adds to the overall customer experience of the end-users.

Creating the best user documentation or user manuals is not an easy task. It requires different teams to come together and put themselves in the place of the customers and look at the product from a customer’s point of view. In this blog, we will take you through the importance of user documentation, elements that need to come together to create user documentation, and tips for creating the best user documentation.

What is End-User Documentation? Why is it Important

End-user documentation is a piece of information or content supplied by the manufacturers or makes of a product. This information is designed to help the end-users get the most out of the product or the service in the most practical manner. User manuals are a part of user documentation.

User documentation can be prepared in different formats. It can either be an illustrated guide, video guide, image, or digital text. It can also be a blend of different media. No matter what the product is, it always has a learning curve for new users. The technical documentation you provide will help your end users in the initial learning phase in successfully using your product.

Different Types of User Documentation

Types of User Documentation

Here is a list of the different types of user documentation

  1. Video

    A few years ago, we didn’t have videos as a part of our instruction manuals. But it is obvious that with visuals, it is easier to explain something. Customers understand things better if there is a video related to them. A video is an exceptionally efficient tool or type of user documentation. Videos work as good visual step-by-step guides.

  2. Online Manual

    The majority of software or applications have all the instructions or essential information attached in the Help section. The Help function is not only available in the software, but also online. User documentation can also be written in the form of case studies.

  3. Quick Start Guide

    The Quick Start Guide is the easiest way for a user to get access to the most functional information one requires to make use of a product. Manufacturers can choose to print a detailed manual or guide, but a quick start guide is required, without which some products cannot be sold.

  4. Complete Manual

    For in-depth instruction, a complete manual is a perfect choice. In-depth information can easily help you clear certain differences. For products with slightly complicated usage or software, requirements can benefit from having a complete manual as users need details in order to make the most of these products. Manuals are of different types: maintenance manual, operation manual, and installation manual.

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Importance of User Documentation

  1. Helps users

    What do you do when you buy a new electrical appliance? You unbox it and look for a user manual. If we are already used to the product, we might not go through it, but this user manual is an important element for many new users. The technical documentation is designed thinking about the user, and it only works towards making it easier for the end-users to understand the product.

  2. Less load for customer support

    When users have all the information they need to start and use a product, they will have fewer doubts and queries related to the product or service. When they have fewer doubts, they will not have to depend on the customer support team for answers. This will help in minimizing the unnecessary load of the customer support team.

  3. Improves customer experience

    When you offer good user documentation, it means you think about your users and are trying to make things easier for them. Supplying good user documentation eventually contributes to the overall customer experience of your product or service.

6 Examples of Incredible End-User Documentation

Here are six examples of great end-user documentation.

  1. Google Documentation

    Google owns hundreds of software and tools. It makes sure that each of these products has a separate Google documentation page or a user manual. Google Help portal is the place where some of the most common questions are answered. It is sensible for a giant company like Google to maintain online forums. This way, customers can often include things that the system documentation doesn’t have. By doing this, Google is creating one of the largest directories of answered support questions.

  2. Skype Documentation

    Skype, from Microsoft, is a popular and long-running video chatting tool. It is used by people for business, professional, educational, and personal purposes as well. The feature-loaded support page of Skype is a great example of good user documentation. It has documents sorted into different categories. Each of these documents has a FAQ with troubleshooting information attached with them.

  3. Slack Documentation

    Slack has helped thousands of businesses in getting data and knowledge in order. Slack is quite straightforward and easy to use. It has many features and tools to help boost a business’s productivity. Slack can be better understood by way of its Help Center documentation. Most of the questions can be searched for or solved by simply using the search form. Customers can learn how to use Slack, use the advanced features, and find out interesting tips and tricks.

  4. Ionic Docs

    Ionic Framework is a web technology that is used for developing cross-platform web apps. All the information and FAQ related to the framework can be easily found on Ionic Docs. It is a collaborative effort from the community. It also has a frontend option for editing the documents as well. The document is revised and updated by the community on a daily basis.

  5. Ahrefs

    Ahrefs is a leading SEO tool that manages all the information related to the tool on the Ahrefs Help Center. It helps customers in finding answers to their questions. On the help pages, Ahrefs documentation has uploaded detailed articles that explain the features of the product. Having your system documentation information published eventually helps the platform in better customer retention.

  6. Digital Ocean

    Digital Ocean is a cloud hosting solution for developers. All the documentation information related to the platform is uploaded and maintained on the community page of the platform. A lot of the information and answers for this documentation come from the community itself. There are questions and answers, documentation pages, and tutorials.

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What are Common Elements of Great User Documentation?

Here are some common elements for creating great user documentation.

  1. Simplicity

    Keeping the document simple will help a lot, both in terms of content and arrangement. Instead of making the bulk of information or materials intimidating, try to make it more engaging for the readers.

  2. Visuals

    When things can be explained easily with context by way of using visuals, it doesn’t make sense to write long documents about it. Visuals can do a lot more than you can imagine.

  3. Solution-oriented

    Make sure the content or knowledge you add works towards the solution instead of working towards the problem. This can easily happen with user documentation.

  4. Flow

    Hierarchy is created with headings and subheadings. A logical flow is the one that not just shows the step-by-step process but also makes sense to the readers reading it.

  5. Design

    Using design in a document might seem illogical. But everything works better when it is planned and given a certain design. The design will not only make it look good but also provide a structure.

  6. Accessible

    Accessibility is key. Creating the content but also making sure that the information reaches the customers looking for it is also important. Make it accessible for all your users.

  7. Feedback

    Listen to what your customers have to say about your documentation. It will give you an idea as to what the pain points of the users are. You will learn about quite a few things that you might not have considered earlier.

10 Tips to Keep in Mind while Writing End-User Documentation

User Documentation: Tips

Tip #1: Have a Plan

Find out your end goal for creating the documentation. This will help you plan the content, structure, where to make it available. Consult with your customer support team to find out the most common problems faced by customers. This will help you a lot.

Tip #2: Table of Contents

When you have a table of contents right at the beginning of the document, it provides you an overview of what the document includes. It makes navigation much more convenient for your readers. Your readers shouldn’t be going back and forth from one document to another just to find one answer.

Tip #3: Follow a Hierarchy

A logical hierarchy of topics will make it easier for users to learn about the product. All the data or knowledge you share must connect and make sense to the reader. Categorization of the information also helps immensely.

Tip #4: Simplify it For End Users 

Make a document into an easy flowing article or a step-by-step guide. Instead of creating a daunting collection of manuals, make an interesting amalgamation of information and experience.

Tip #5: Plain Language

Engaging your customers with useful knowledge is one of the most basic goals of documentation. Do not use language that is difficult for them to understand. Try simpler words and shorts sentences. Technical writers understand exactly how to apply these rules to a user document.

Tip #6: Screenshots

Including screenshots makes it easier for your users to understand what you are talking about. This works especially when you are talking about software or an app.

Tip #7: Videos 

Videos are probably the best way to explain certain processes. Make sure the content and flow of the video is also something that is convenient for your users.

Tip #8: Including Links

Linking helps in guiding your users in the right direction. When you include links in a document, you are redirecting them to the exact spot where they will definitely find an answer to their problem.

Tip #9: Add Updates

As and when you update the product, you will have new queries from customers. In order to solve these new queries or questions, companies will be required to add updates to the existing documents or make new documents in case of a new product.

Tip #10: Test Product Documentation

Getting beta-testers to find out if your software documentation is really helpful is an important step. It can give you an insight into things you might have missed as writers or developers while creating the document. Testing provides useful data about any improvements that your document requires.


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