What is a User Guide and How to Build One?

These days certain intricate technical products require a step-by-step explanation and guidance for complex operational tasks. For such documentation, user guides are created to present the instructions or directions that help end-users understand the usage of a product.


Moreover, when it comes to administering technical information, these guides are incorporated in the knowledge base software of the company and are enormously helpful to retrieve any information. Let’s understand what a user guide is and how we can build one in this digital age.


What is A User Guide?

A user guide, also generally called instruction manuals or end-user manuals, or technical communication manuals or documents is envisioned to assist individuals utilizing a specific system. It is typically transcribed by a technical writer. But in small-scale companies, these guides or manuals are written by product or project managers, programmers, or other technical teams.

User guides are usually associated with computer hardware and software and electronic goods; although they can be written for any type of product or service. Such guides include both a sort of written documentation and its related images. And when we talk about computer apps, it is customary that it includes a screenshot of the human-machine interface.

Also, it is often seen that hardware manuals include simplified and clear diagrams. Here, the language written is matched as per the projected audience’s understanding, along with the jargons kept to the least level or elucidated meticulously.

Who Needs to Have a User Guide for Their Business?

User guides help you contract with customer complaints or frustration merely by imparting them the means to classify, comprehend, and untangle recurrent technical hitches by themselves.

Moreover, user manuals that are extremely helpful, rationally written, and easy to follow and understand make the clientele feel esteemed and drastically contribute to their satisfaction level, nevertheless multifaceted the product tends to be.

The businesses which focus on the following things need to have user guides:

  1. Avail Potential Leads

    Interactive user guides are truly versatile. It can be utilized to promote new products and campaigns to grab the consumers’ attention and produce interest. Besides, with an improved user experience, you will avail more consumer loyalty and advertising word of mouth. As per PWC, 73% of customers believe that a good experience is crucial in inducing their brand loyalty.

  2. Decrease Support Expenditures

    An interactive user manual aids systematize customer support, as they respond to common queries that do not require decision-making or intelligence. By rendering self-service tools like tooltips and product tours on your website, the users follow directions while contacting your platform all at once. This will lessen forthcoming support calls and eradicate the requisite to generate additional user documentation.

  3. Streamline Staff Onboarding and Training

    An efficient employee onboarding procedure can increase employee retention by almost 82%. But traditional training is expensive and time-consuming. As a substitute, if you require to enhance your employee onboarding policy while decreasing the costs, you can use guides as online pages courses.

    In this manner, new staff can learn more while functioning anywhere on any website or platform at any time and their own pace. By choosing CloudTutorial, you can produce online guides in your corporate wiki to form documentation plans, streamline training, and improve knowledge sharing in your internal departments.

  4. Retain Consumers on Website

    Owing to the cutting-edge competition in the market, it turns out to be critical to supply a remarkable customer experience. For this, the focal point is your website or page. If you need to persuade any new user, form custom-made welcome communications that display the importance of your services.

    Also, you want to eradicate any confusion in users’ minds and make it clear that your offerings are supreme before they get their attention shifted on a competitor’s website or page.

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Examples of Effective User Guides that Work

User guides are one of the most imperative parts of any product development. For the users to understand how the product functions, they act as reference type information to such guides. When it comes to digital services or products, these guides, sometimes described in the knowledge base customer service, are one of the finest ways to illuminate all details of the product.

The following are the examples of effective user guides that work well to determine the structure of a user guide:

  1. Google

    Google

    Google is the most well-known website on the planet. Whether it is Gmail or Search, millions of individuals get landed on its services every day. The organization owns several tools and products, and almost every product has its particular user manual or user documentation page.

    The feedback strategy and common questions are carried through the Google Help portal. Here, you can find community forums for submitting feedback or questions and knowledge base style answers.

  2. DigitalOcean

    Digital ocean Community

    DigitalOcean is a cloud hosting platform for developers. Contrary to the traditional help pages, it maintains the user documentation or resources completely through its Community page. As the company name suggests, most of the support is presented by the large community itself. It contains questions on the forums, separate documentation pages for DigitalOcean products, and written tutorials.

  3. Slack

    Slack

    Slack is considered one of the most prevalent communication tools across the globe. This platform aids billions of companies to conduct essential work-related conferences and discussions instantaneously. It presents numerous planning tools and features that increase business efficiency.

    How to use Slack efficiently can be easily understood with its Help Centre documentation. In this way, you can utilize your user manual or internal knowledge base to assist customers to understand your product exhaustively.

  4. Ahrefs

    Ahrefs

    Ahrefs, a prominent SEO tool, administers its user documentation for apparently a multifaceted software product with much simplicity. The Ahrefs Help Center straightaway answers the queries that customers search for. It treats their complete documentation as a blog page, with detailed articles enlightening unique features of the products.

  5. KnowAll

    knowall

    KnowAll is a prominent WordPress-based knowledge base theme. It helps in presenting their users’ helpful answers and guides to various crucial queries. Here, the search results are displayed as a portion of the search form and are yielded in real-time. This saves users’ a few clicks as they can search help pages associated with their keyword of interest immediately.


Benefits of Having a User Guide for Your Product

User guides or user manuals tell individuals how to utilize a product in a resourceful way. It includes data about the product’s characteristics and highlights the main uses. With the help of these guides, the users can get all the needed information.

The benefits of having a user guide or manual for your product are as follows:

  • Possessing a steady point of reference information can eliminate a massive amount of stress from your customer support team.

For example, the questions that might take 20 minutes to answer can be resolved by directing users in the correct direction from the documented guide.

  • Customers are likely to bear in mind bad experiences more rather than good ones. Ensuring that the users get the most from your product by online user documentation on guides is one of the ways to avert them from getting dissatisfied or confused with your services.
  • The last abode users want to be is on a phone call with your customer support team after getting failed to understand the product.

A user manual that is easy to access can direct your customers through the most rudimentary to the most multifaceted traits in real-time.

Drawback of Creating a User Guide

A user manual or guide is a task-oriented document. It contains maintenance instructions, operating instructions, technical descriptions, drawings, diagrams, and flow charts. It may not sometimes serve the purpose despite documenting the information on how to use or repair a product.

The following are a few drawbacks of creating a user guide:

  • The users’ guide creation is a time-consuming procedure. Besides, it requires a persistent review which also takes too much time.
  • There is no room for initiative and discretion amongst the team members.
  • When these written user guides, provide procedures and instructions, then there is barely any possibility for upgrading or altering it.

The individuals are bound to follow the prescribed processes in the implementation of a task.

  • The accumulation of guides requires considerable costs. It is expensive, small-scale businesses cannot afford to have them.

Create a User Guide: The 10 Step Guide

A user manual or documentation instructs customers about a particular product as well as educates them on how to make use of the product’s features efficiently. Creating a user manual is a huge responsibility as the whole document would be utilized by those users who are dependent on it to supply them with proper instructions that they could follow.

The following 10-step guide would help you create a user manual or guide for your business:

Step 1: Recognize the Audience

You are halfway home if you get an understanding of who your audience is while creating user guides. Such identification of the audience aids you choose what sort of information is needed and how it must be presented. It also helps you to decide how much detailed info you require to include in the guide.

For example, a user manual or guide for a microwave can comprise technical phrases without any definition if the audience is professional technicians, but that cannot be the scenario if the audience is an end-consumer.

Step 2: Express the Aim of the User Guide

You ought to ensure that you recognize what the guide’s readers require to learn to use the item. A big difference can be ascertained between forming an instruction guide that emphasizes elucidating how to use a product versus how to repair it.

For example, if you are writing user documentation for the hairdresser who will utilize a new hair straightener model, it is very dissimilar from making documentation for the objective of instructing how to repair or service the hair straightener.

Step 3: Classify the ‘How-To’ Steps

You must begin your initial draft by building a list of the steps that someone requires to follow to execute whatsoever tasks the documentation is intended to elucidate. Then you use this list that you have created in the body text and try carrying out these tasks yourself.

In this way, you will gauge whether the list is adequate or it requires a few alterations. Keep revising the guide’s instructions until it becomes easy to follow as documented.

Step 4: Validate the Documented Steps

The latest draft thus prepared must be incorporated in the ‘how-to’ body text of the guide. Here, the usage of technical writing skills to interpret the draft into this section is beneficial. You can begin with a comprehensive list of materials or resources laid out so that it will become simpler for your readers to extract what info they require. For the steps described, use bullet points and numbered lists that will help the users follow the documentation step-by-step.

Step 5: Create Suitable Graphics

After the steps have been defined, study where the graphic elements must be positioned so that they can assist users to follow and implement the guidance. You can develop suitable graphs, illustrations, or charts to include in the transcript in conjunction with the steps.

Placing the graphics aptly will make readers confused about the portion of the written guidelines relate to which image. In case you are not able to create the graphics by yourself, you can work with a graphic artist or an illustrator.

Step 6: Document Other Segments

Once the chief portion of the user manual has been well-documented, focus on constructing the other segments of the subject. Here, you will require an introductory and a conclusion section.

  • Introductory Part: Usually, the introduction segment of a user manual begins with a general product overview and a message of gratitude to customers for choosing their product.
  • Conclusion Part: The conclusion section ends with information and related details on how to communicate with the company. It also comprises warranties, license agreements, safety notices, and disclaimers that might be required.

Moreover, it can be advantageous to contain troubleshooting procedures and/or frequently asked questions (FAQ format) sections.

Step 7: Be Concise and Comprehensive

User guides need to be concise as well as comprehensive. The sections included in the guide must be written in a technical writing style. Here, the focus should be on transmitting maximum data in as limited words as possible. If a process can be described in a few sentences or directions, then there is no need to be wordy and make the guide lengthy.

Be concise by getting straight to the problem and answer all significant items that require to be addressed. Remember, excessive words can create information overload.

Step 8: Format for Easy Readability

Having all the important information that the users need is crucial for user guides. Also, this document must be easy to follow and user-friendly. For this, consider the below-mentioned points that help format the guide for easy readability:

  • Do not use a font size less than 10-point. Depending upon your readers, you may require to utilize a larger font size.
  • Select a proper font style. Usually, it is preferred to choose Calibri or Arial, particularly for chapter titles.
  • The steps must be presented in the format of a numbered list.
  • Utilize table form and/or bulleted lists to highlight vital data or information.
  • Insert headings to highlight shifts from one segment to another. Comprise sub-headings inside the headings’ segments as desirable.

Step 9: Include a Table of Contents

A table of contents is important while forming what tips on documenting user guides you must keep in mind. Most of these guides utilize a table of contents along with the title page to depict the arrangement of its set of instructions or information.

Such a table will assist the readers throughout the guide. Furthermore, it will aid the customers to find answers to the queries they are searching for very quickly.

Step 10: Verify the Accuracy, Proofread, and Get the Guide Reviewed

  • Verify the Accuracy

Ensure that the information contained in the user guide or manual is accurate and error-free. The directions must express how to follow a particular procedure or utilize specific equipment. You ought to check the order of the steps, clarity of the language, and the terminologies included.

  • Proofread

Proofread cautiously to confirm that your user manual is free from any punctuation, grammar, and spelling error. Typographical mistakes could confuse the readers. It also reflects poorly on the company, product, or brand.

  • Get the Guide Reviewed

When you consider that the guide is prepared, make someone else review the document. Ask her or him to try and follow the directions as if she or he were a member of the targeted customers.

In this way, it yields feedback about the format and content of the overall guide and whether the guidelines require any adjustment or not.

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Points to Reflect On While Writing a User Guide

An effective user guide or manual provides customers quick answers to their inquiries that they might possess about a certain product. The end-users searching for data do not want to identify the greatest and latest product features.

But, in reality, they want to understand how to finish the tasks. Technical writing should aim at user tasks and the conceptions that support these tasks. The following are some of the points to reflect on while writing a user guide:

  • Present directions as step-by-step processes
  • Elaborate what are the functions and how a user can use it
  • Make sure that the writers are a vital part of the product design squad
  • Write the user manual in synchronization with the product’s formation timeline and not under the pressure of the shipping time limit.
  • Ensure that the writers get the product, understand, and utilize it as they document
  • Consider the requirements of disabled users and supply alternative guides or manuals in large print, Braille, or audio.
  • Offer preface, appendixes, glossary, index, and how-to steps
  • Make effective and purposeful use of color, diagrams, and pictures
  • Insert a help-line contact details
  • Make use of a single language and that too in active voice

FAQs

A user guide can be written by following certain things – know your audience, describe the problem, write descriptively, use simple language and implement active voice, place graphics, and tutorial videos.

A user guide should include a chapter, title page, cover page, copyright notice, preface, headings, content page, audience section, purpose section, scope section, FAQ pages, contact details, glossary, installation procedures, and troubleshooting section.

Good user documentation or user guide must comprise the particulars like searchable content, visuals, simple language, a logical hierarchy and flow, a focus on the problem, simplicity, a table of contents, accessible content, links to further resources, and feedback from real users.


Conclusion

From this blog, we can examine that user guides must be produced, designed, and supplied in a manner that is most helpful to your end-users. With CloudTutorial, create your user guides that diminish the time and effort it takes for any consumer to understand your product.

A well-instructed, organized, and clear user guide will set your users on their path to utilize your product to its utmost potential. This will also save much time for your service team and they can pay attention to other critical matters.

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