It is easy to assume that content is the only element users care about whenever they use a documentation. But such an assumption is absolutely far from reality. Design is one of the most crucial elements of any online documentation. A visually-appealing documentation such as a user guide that contains relevant images and have appropriate videos embedded in it alongside with fonts and theme that aligns with the website design is always visually appealing to users and more user-friendly!
Here are 5 easy tips for creating visually appealing online documentations that are user-friendly.
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.
A user-friendly documentation is a winning documentation for any technical writer. But creating one can be tricky, especially if you’re writing for a diverse audience that cuts across locations and languages. Here are great technical writing principles that can guide you whenever you’re looking to write user-friendly help materials.
Would you love your website to look great with a stunning and richer user experience across all devices, platforms, and screen sizes? It’s easy to conclude that you need such a website because of smartphones and tablets users. Period. But you should look beyond the current devices and imagine future devices such as smartwatches, Google glass, virtual and augmented reality, or any other new devices tech experts may throw at us. Responsive websites and development will work for them too. Let’s see how important responsive HTML websites are.
The English language is one of the most widely used languages in technical writing. But the English language is complex - rich in idioms, verbal phrases, figure of speeches, synonyms, ambiguous words and terms that may confuse secondary speakers and even native speakers. This is one of the key reasons why some users don’t read help manuals. While documenting, almost every technical writer contends with the daunting task of communicating complex technical terms in very simple and easy-to-understand words, sentences, and instructions. In most cases, the technical writer’s effort is measured by user feedback. So to make technical documentations such as user manuals, help files, safety guides etc. easier to understand and user-friendly, the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) developed Simplified Technical English (STE), otherwise known as the ASD-STE100 or the Thumbs-up technique.
The effectiveness of any technical documentation depends on how well the technical writer has tailored its content to appeal to the target audience. But in many cases, tailoring content for the target audience is not the challenge. The key challenge is how to identify and analyze the audience. So it’s not strange when you see technical writers asking “How can you tailor your content to appeal to a specific audience when you don’t even know them?” This is one of the reasons why users don’t read your manuals. Audience analysis is perhaps the single most important aspect of technical writing. If you do it right, your customer support team will heave a sigh of relief and you can slash your customer support cost. But what happens when you don’t hit the bull’s eye? You’ll have to spend more on customer support. Perhaps, create a new manual, and you can imagine the dent it can put on your product’s name as a brand, especially when your competitors are doing it right. Now you can avoid such a scenario by simply analyzing your audience.
You’ve designed a near perfect product or built a great software. And then you hired some of the best technical writers to write a user-friendly help manual to solve usability problems. You want your product users to start enjoying the product from the first minute. The technical writers did a great a job, and your user experience team confirmed that. But after launching your product or releasing an update, you seem to be spending a lot more on customer support. In many cases, the answers users are looking for are right inside the user manual. So now you’re asking the same question many manufacturers and developers have been asking. Do product users ever read help manuals?
There is only one rule for picking the best format for publishing help manuals: pick the format that makes the manual easily accessible for users when they need it and how they need it. Interestingly, product users have access to several devices, software and digital content including web browsers, PDF, Microsoft Word and smart devices such as smartphones, tablets, Kindle, iPads, Macs… The list is almost endless. This is why writing a quality help manual may be the best investment your business makes. But with such a long list, what’s the best format for publishing your help manual? Let’s review some of them.
What’s the worst mistake you can make as a first time help manual author?
A good help manual is user-friendly, and contains clear instructions that users can find and use easily. But if you’re a first time help manual author, creating a good one can be a tough task, especially if it’s your first technical writing project. Interestingly, every great help manual writer had their first moment too, and made several mistakes on their first attempt. We’ve compiled these mistakes, so you wouldn’t repeat any of them. Thankfully, you can learn from these mistakes and create a top-notch help manual on your first attempt.