Tech Standards / User Documentation

User Documentation

User documentation, often also referred to as software manuals is a description of a software and instructions on how to use it properly. It usually also describes individual programme features and provides the user with assistance in how to use particular features but it usually also includes other helpful and of course, up to date information for the end user.

User Documentation Content

User documentation is usually arranged in a form of a book and typically includes features such as table of contents, index, etc., while the body itself can be arranged in different ways. Since it is intended to help the user to learn how to use the software and particular applications properly, each user documentation typically includes instructions on installation, what is needed to run the programme such as computer operating systems, hard drive space, RAM, etc. Often, detailed guidelines are also included for different operating systems. Most software manuals also include step-by-step installation guidelines which can come in a form of a download or CD-ROM for instance. Other elements that are usually found in user documentation include:

Forms of User Documentation Available

The most common form of user documentation are printed, book-like versions but some software manuals are also available in online and PDF versions. These are often accompanied by additional documentation such as frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers, video tutorials, educative and knowledge based articles, etc.

Organisation of User Documentation

Organisation of user documentation can generally be divided into three different categories:

Tutorial. This is the most commonly used approach and is generally most desirable among the users, especially the new ones because it guides them step-by-step from installation to use of particular features.

Thematic. This type of user documentation organisation follows a thematic approach in which content is organised according to themes or areas of interest. Thematic approach is very common for software intended for intermediate users who don’t need step-by-step guidance and are more interested in troubleshooting assistance.

List or reference. This approach uses organisation of content alphabetically or some other logical sequence and is most helpful for advanced users looking for specific information.

User Documentation Writing Style

User documentation must be written in a clear and user-understandable language. Just as important is to make sure that it isn’t confusing in order to avoid potential misinterpretations. Other important elements of user documentation writing style include simplicity, consistency and usability.