Software user guides are good and useful, as long as they are well done. What makes them great?
- No fluff. Cut to to the chase. Answer this question succinctly “how do I do this? … or that?”. Don’t fill a user guide with marketing jargen or unnecessary content.
- Relevant Examples. Know your audience. Provide real-world use case examples to describe precisely how to accomplish a given task. When possible, these should come from actual customer support inquiries.
- Some pictures please. A picture paints a thousand words. Where appropriate, use some product screen shots for illustration and explantions. Plain words and instruction are not always as effective. Don’t be tempted to over-use screen shots though as you UI can change making this difficult to manage.
- Just the right amount of links for navigation. Make it easy to navigate the guide, including listing relevant topics, a table of contents, glossary and index. However, don’t over-use in content links as it can be distracting and disjointed to follow all links. Your end-users can may be led astray, begin jumping around and not get the answer they were looking for in the first place!
- Keep it current. Guides can quickly become “stale” as a software evolves through releases. Ideally, review and update your guide with each software release. Better still, publish new user guide release editions with each minor or major software product release to benefit those customers who have not yet upgraded.
Find it EZ is about to publish user guides for its full product line. Software change made simple. ™