Online user guides and manuals are absolutely convenient for users because they can be accessed easily and almost anywhere. As such, online user guides and manuals must be written appropriately to make them effective and user-friendly.
Unlike the print user guides and manuals, online manuals are often accessed via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Although they aren’t restricted to such devices: learn more about the best formats to publish your help files.
So what should you consider when writing online user guides and manuals? Let’s get back to the basics.
Tips for writing online user guides and manuals
1. Make your online user guide responsive
There are millions of mobile device users across the globe. So make sure your online user guide page is responsive and can fit into any device screen size regardless of the audience you’re targeting. You can start with this new responsive HTML documentation that is compatible with any screen size.
Smart devices come in different shapes and sizes. Chances are your product users will access your online user guide with different devices designed with different sizes and screens. You should also tailor your online user manual for iPhone devices too.
If your user guide is not responsive, it will be a complete turn off for users. Many data will be cut off the screen and only laptop and desktop computers will be good enough to access it. That limits your audience and overrides the core essence of the online user guide.
2. Use visual aids
Most times it’s easier to remember what you see better than what you read. This is because the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it does text. That’s exactly why kids are often taught with visual aids while in school. You can do the same for your product users. Sometimes all you need is just one image to tell users how to perform an action, solve a problem or use a product appropriately.
A simple depiction of how to use your product or how to fix an error can make all the difference between an effective user guide and one that is not. You can use a short video, images or even a 3D graphic to show how to solve a problem. Use visual aids to make complex process simple and clear.
Especially for processes that involve several different stages that can confuse a first-time user. It’s a lot easier to use images than to write lot of texts that non-technical people often describe as boring.
3. Explain the features
Your product features can be absolutely amazing. But they’ll be absolutely worthless if users don’t know what they are, their functions, and how to use them. So explain all the key features of your product using an easy-to-understand language.
So give a simplified explanation of how each of your product features work and how they can be used in different situations. Find a link between each features and show users how they are interrelated and yet work independently.
4. Don’t omit precautionary details
Precautionary measures can include how a specific command can override others or how certain options within a feature could extend its functions or limit them based on system requirements and user. You’ll have to mention as many of such situations as possible. So users will have a clear picture of why your program react the way it does under some circumstances.
5. Explain terms as required
Don’t hesitate to explain technical terms that might be difficult for some users to understand. You can put them in the glossary section of your manual. You should also create links within the online guide to direct users to the glossary page so they can have easier access to whatever definition they want.
6. Don’t omit technical details
It’s easy to assume that all your product users aren’t technical people. Odds are some of them are interested in technical details of the product. So include technical details of how your product works and what makes each feature or part function the way it does. You may add a visual aid to make the process easier to understand. Such technical details will help users understand cause and effects points while using your product.
Online user guides and manuals should be absolutely simplified for users and published on a responsive web page for optimal user experience. One of the easiest way to do this is to use a help authoring software like HelpNDoc.