Tips for Making User Guides Friendly

Image of man's finger pointing to the words user guide on a transparent screen

Complicated, dry, two-hundred-page user manuals? We don’t want them.

The days of long-winded, boring, and overly technical user manuals are gone, and today’s users have increased expectations of what user guides should offer them.

Below, we’re taking a look at the rising demand for self-service UC solutions, the most frequent user guide mistakes, and best practices for creating effective, engaging user guides for your UC product or service.

Demand for Self-Service Solutions

Though stay-at-home orders have been lifted and vaccination numbers are rising, many companies are keeping a work-from-home model to provide greater flexibility to their employees, cut operational costs, and support public health.

Some of these shifts will be permanent. According to Gartner’s research, 74% of companies plan to shift at least some (5%) of their employees to a permanent remote position.

With more people working from home, it’s essential for users to have the support and training resources when they need help using UC technology for their jobs, and one of the most beneficial self-service resources is the user guide.

User guides give end users a resource to troubleshoot issues that arise from the technology they are using without having to rely on the help desk team, use a live chat agent, or wait in a long call queue to speak to someone.

Ideally, UC user guides should break down complex, technical information simply in bite-sized pieces that the user can easily find, understand, and digest. They should provide the nitty-gritty details of complicated configurations and tasks and make it easy and straightforward.

5 Common Pitfalls of User Guides

Unfortunately, some user guides don’t meet these expectations. All too often, they feel dry, clunky, overly technical, and overwhelming.

Here are the biggest mistakes to avoid when making user guides:

  1. Overestimating Technical Abilities – Everyone’s technical abilities vary, so assuming that most users accessing the guide have a high technical ability is usually an overestimation. It’s important that this documentation is comprehensible for a wide audience of various technical abilities.
  2. Using Boring, Technical Speak – Yes, most user guide topics are pretty dry and technical, but that doesn’t mean the guides themselves should be boring. It’s critical that your user guides engage the reader to help them see the solution to their problem through.
  3. Generalizing Instruction – When a user accesses a guide or manual, they are expecting detailed answers to their specific questions and challenges. If the information they find is vague, generalized, and empty, it’s not going to provide them any meaning.
  4. Lack of Perceived Value – Many people underestimate the value of a help manual due to their long history of disappointment and confusion with user guides. In a way, they write off the efforts of the manual because they think their time is better spent calling customer support or starting a live chat.
  5. Poor Visual Layout – While the content is king, the visual layout is also important to keep in mind when creating your guide. There should be white space between sections, clear headings, bullets, numbered lists, infographics, diagrams, links, and other interesting visual components.

User-Friendly User Guides Best Practices

To counteract these common pitfalls of UC user guides and create engaging, helpful user documentation, employ the use of the following best practices:

  • Write How You Speak – In a user guide, you’re going to be covering a variety of extremely technical topics, but that doesn’t mean you should write in a way that’s just as technical. Work against this inclination by writing how you actually speak, using plain English rather than industry jargon that would go above the heads of some readers. There are several tools online you can use to create simpler, better, more human writing, like Hemingway, for example.
  • Find the Sweet Spot of Technical Knowledge – You don’t want to speak from a place of inexperience, but you also don’t want to approach the user guide with too much technical knowledge, as you might be coming at it from too high a level for the average user to understand. It’s important to find that sweet spot of technical knowledge and write from a perspective that is informed but down-to-earth.
  • Innovative Media – Using GIFs within the digital guides to explain or show a how-to, etc. is a great alternative to a static image or video as they’re easier to create and update.
  • Break Down Complex Topics – When you get to big, complex topics, use the principles of microlearning to break them down into smaller sections with a logical hierarchy to make them more digestible. Get as detailed as you can without over-complicating things.
  • Make it Searchable – To increase the efficiency of your user guides, make it searchable so users can quickly find the answers to their particular question or challenge.

Engaging, Simple User Guides with B-Lynk

Want to harness the industry best practices in your user guides for UC products or services? B-Lynk’s training experts can create user guides for your cloud services or products that explain business use-cases of features and how to configure and use them.

Our UC experts are familiar with the industry, the most effective user guide strategies, and the way users utilize these manuals. We can create a customized user guide for your end-users that puts all of the most important how-to information in one organized, searchable location to amplify your self-service options and improve customer satisfaction.

Want to see how our user guides work? Check out these live Webex examples here and here.

To learn more about our digital user guides and other support and training resources, reach out to our team.

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