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             22 September, 2019
 

    
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Writing A User Guide

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2008-01-09 03:23:23     
Article by Pavan M Kumar

There are different ways to write a guide. We can write the Guide/Guidebook in such a way explaining all the features at a granular-level and call it a Reference Guide. Otherwise, you can write and explain a few critical tasks dealing about what the user needs and requires when he or she stuck at a critical point in the task process. Most of the users do not show interest in reading the entire Guide. They are more interested in knowing about what they are doing, why they are stuck in the process and what needs to be done to get the task completed.

Writing a guidebook to a layman is different from writing for a professional. Writing to a developer who expects the technical jargon filled book is different from writing to an end user who needs to explain everything in layman terms. In other words, how you write depends upon the target audience and also upon the application or the product you are dealing with. On the whole if the target audience reads and understands your content without any confusion and questions, then that means you have succeeded in your Technical Writing task.

The learning graph of each user varies in extremes. It is not possible to guess what the user can or cannot understand which set of instructions and why. Unless until, you would not interact with the end user the whole situation looks bizarre. Since it is not possible to interact with end users practically, the only other alternative way is to get different kinds of reviews like peer, technical, editorial, etc, for your end user guide. To make sure that both the guidebook and the end users are on the same plane technically, it is advised to get your guide also reviewed by departments like marketing, sales, pre-sales, etc, which interact with end users frequently and know what they are looking for.

Is there any chance to write a guidebook in such a way that it presents the product features and tasks according to different difficulty levels? If there is such a chance to write, then the guide topics should be break up in such a way that they represent the basic, advanced, etc, levels. Prepare a separate guidebook for each level. Just like how you write about the topic to be learned at the starting of each book, in the same way, write an introduction kind of stuff to the next level Guide at the end of each book. This way, the user will come to know what s/he learnt, at what understanding level s/he is in, and what s/he is to learn about the product.

In summary, every writer needs to think and know about the target audience as much as possible before s/he starts writing a Guide. Every product is unique; there is no need to present the content in the same way for all the products you are dealing with. Depending upon the level of understanding and learning difficulty of the product and also about the end user whose knowledge-level you need to increase through your product guide, the guidebook should be designed and written.

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