How to make a user guide?
Writing a user guide is not done overnight
Creating a user guide is not done overnight. Sure, user guides can consist of only one A4 sheet. But generally speaking, a product that needs a user guide is more complex than a single A4 can carry. That’s why writing user guides takes time. It is true: how much time depends on the product at hand. But is safe to say that writing a user guide is not something to do the last moment. Here are the reasons why.
More often than not, a customer’s first contact with a product is via… the user guide. That’s why it should better be of high quality. If one writes it at the last moment, the ‘customer journey’ could begin very negatively. This is something a manufacturer wants to avoid at all costs.
Level of detail
One would think that the question ‘How to produce a user guide?’ is not that difficult to answer. After all, the knowledge on the product is available within one’s own organization. This may be true, but may pose a challenge at the same time. In fact, the very fact that there is so much information available about one’s own product, could very well be a hindrance. The reason is simple: the creators of a product tend to know so much about the product, that the level of detail could easily become (way) too high. That’s why is is a very good idea to take a backseat and ask oneself: what should be in our user guide and what not? But taking a backseat takes… time.
The main principles for writing a user guide might not be that complex. However, there are quite a few of them. None of them should be neglected. Take writing instructions as short as possible (the imperative!). Or applying Simplified Technical English or checking topic-based modular writing or… Taking all these principles into consideration is not something to do at the last moment.
Also, each product is different – or any set of products is different. Therefore, any user guide or any set of user guides is different. This asks for reconsideration each and every time. This is especially true now that all kinds of new output channels exist: video, online presence, offline presence on a device, animation and augmented reality. In order to make the customer journey for the customer as pleasant as possible, reconsideration is called for each and every time.
Experts in writing user guides can shorten the time involved in writing these manuals. But even more important is perhaps the fact that an expert will start planning the production process from day 1, not from market introduction day minus 2. Specialized companies writing user guides know this process. They can plan ahead, thus preventing creating your user guide at the last moment.