Tips on Creating a Good User Documentation
Have you ever read a user guide and wondered what goes on its preparation??? There are lots of processes that are to be taken care to make it readable for the user. For a person who is preparing a user guide, here are some of the points that need to be followed for good user documentation:
Identify the user:
Know the user who would be using the product and know about the extent to which they would be using the product. Give information that will help the user understand the product functionality rather that expressing the knowledge that you hold on the product.
Avoid using words that are too technical:
Using words that are too technical might confuse the user. Use simpler sentences that are easy to understand by a layman. The user need not necessarily be a techie. So create a document keeping the end user in mind.
Have a task-oriented approach:
Write about a product keeping in mind the various functions that can be performed using the product. Functionality understanding is the main key for any product. Write your document giving step wise process for each function.
Understand the flow of the product:
Before beginning to write, understand the flow in which the product would be moving. Analyze which function should be put in first and which should be followed thereafter. Do not write in such a pattern that would confuse the user about how to navigate through the product.
Illustrate one idea at a time:
Do not convey multiple ideas in a single sentence. Break your ideas into small parts and write simple, short and crisp sentences. The more complex your writing style, the more disinterested would be the audience to read your content. It is always better to convey the idea in a clear step wise process. This will allow the user to follow the product conveniently.
Give a comprehensive and well structured Table of Contents (TOC):
If your document has a Table of contents, the user would navigate to this section first to search for sections that he would be navigating through. If the layout of your TOC is good enough, the user will automatically have a positive view about the document. Add all the necessary sections and sub-sections in the TOC. However, don’t make it look too clumsy.
Give appropriate titles, headings and captions (for figures):
The title, heading or sub heading should convey the most appropriate idea about a particular module of your product. They should be meaningful. Similarly, give correct caption under each figure, graphics, etc. These are added efforts but they create a good impression on the document.
Write in a way as you are talking to the user:
Never use words as “should”, “please”, “him/her” in your document. Write as if you are talking to the user on how to use the product but in the most professional way. Avoid using oral communication when writing a guide. Be very specific on how you present your idea.
Use correct font, style and format for your document:
Using the most correct font and style are very crucial in documentation. The first thing that a user sees when opening a document is whether the format of the document would make it readable for him/her. Using too small font or too large font is inappropriate. Similarly using styles that are unprofessional irritates the user. Create your style using Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman. These are mostly used. Make your document look clean and tidy.
Use images and graphics:
Users, now-a-days, are not happy with documents that have only text. Document without images are not appealing to them. An image attracts a user’s attention to further the reading. Add flowcharts, images, pictorial representation, etc to your document. It will keep up the interest of the user.
Edit and Review your document:
Before the final release of the document, make sure that proper editing has been done and that they are reviewed well. Documents with spelling mistakes, incorrect punctuation, wrong syntax and unstructured format create a bad impression on the user. Make sure that the document is all perfect before it reaches the user.
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