Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reduce user needs with these 15 tips for writing smart user manuals

Tips on writing effective manuals...

"How often have you come across a user manual that claims to solve a problem, but actually ends up confusing more than helping? If you're a typical user, it probably happens more often than not. Such badly-designed content leads to dissatisfaction and frustration, a poor impression of product quality and (for the company that sold you the product) increased post-delivery support time and costs.

That's where smart documentation comes in. Smart documentation understands end-user behavior and is aligned to user needs in the most practical manner possible. And in this article, I'm going to offer some practical tips to help you build user content that is suitable, accessible, and readable.
Understand your audience
Know who you are writing for and what the audience needs to know. This helps you to decide on both the depth and breadth of information that needs to be captured, and the kind of language to be used (for example, language and content would be different for experts and beginners). The key here is to give users only what they want -- nothing more, nothing less.

Have a task-oriented approach
Most products are functional in that they allow users to perform specific tasks. Adopt a task-oriented approach whereby you develop content based on the tasks that can be performed using the product. For example, if the product allows you to configure a network, your table of contents should include heads like "Creating a network", "Configuring network settings" and "Deleting a network"."   continued ...   (Via techrepublic)

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