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A short Guide for writing a User Manual

A user manual is an important documentation to help a user understand any system in general. It can be a mobile phone, to a software application to a full fledged IT system. It is a general convention that any person well versed in English and having a good store of vocabulary can write a user manual but the assumption is entirely wrong. A proper research is needed before writing any article. Here is how to write a good user manual.

Use common words and avoid using incomplete phrases because your target readers can be much diversified in their knowledge levels. Always identify the target audience first and then document the manual as per them. Like, if we are writing a user manual for accounting software, our target audience will be bankers who are not that technically sound. So if we are using difficult technical terms, then they will not be able to follow it very easily.

The next job is to identify what we need to write. Define the terms, processes and techniques in full description. Troubleshooting techniques is one of the most important reasons, why people refer to the user manual. So the user manual must cover the minutest details of the troubleshooting tricks of every conceivable problem. Installation and maintenance are also important reasons for referring the user manual so both the chapters should also be covered in full details with related “frequently asked questions”.

Modularity or the task of breaking bigger contents into smaller sub contents makes the user manual a light and easy to follow. Also, try numbering each and every step so that it is easy to redirect the user to other step at any moment. For example “in the installation section, there is a need to go to the product overview chapter at a particular step say 7th “, we can very well redirect the user to that step.

The format of the user manual should also be made such that it appeals to the consumer and he finds it very easy to refer. Every user manual is comprised of certain essentials. The user manual must be indexed, clearly mentioning where to find the exact page for reference. Like any standard book, a preface should be added in the front of the manual which clearly outlines the scopes and goals of the user manual. The front page, disclaimer and copyright (if any) should also be mentioned in details at the starting of the manual.
In a nutshell, writing a user manual is not that a difficult task if we identify our subject matter, our target audiences and present it in a modular and easy-to-follow manner.