In one of our previous articles – Screenshot-based or Video guides — what is the best way to explain the process? – we have already explained why screenshots are better than videos. This time the topic of discussion will concern step-by-step explanations. We have prepared 5 reasons how they will make your user guide much more useful.
#1 Users will not read your guide (and don’t expect them to)
No jokes! What they really aim to do is to get rid of the annoying issue they have faced. So don’t make their life even worse adding endless text descriptions, just avoid long help articles.
I can tell from my own experience when there is a need to refer to a user guide of any product, I will surely close it if I don’t come across what I was looking for in the first minute. Useful insight: remember that expectations are really high, so make your help guide scannable. Steps will make your training material structured and easy to read. If your customers don’t like the manual, they may not like the product.
#2 The most valuable element of your document is… NOT text!
Previously on our blog, we have made a conclusion that screenshots are a real MUST for every piece of a training material. To tell even more, they should include more information than the text descriptions themselves. Sounds strange, but it’s quite logical: screenshot is that very detail a person pays attention to in the first place. So better spend more time annotating your screenshots and after complement them with short and up-to-the-point descriptions instead of typing long messages, which most probably are not going to be appreciated. The best solution for such a case is to explain in short, step-by-step, and to visualize it.
#3 It is quick to generate a step-by-step guide with the help of a process documenting software
Using right tools can make you more productive and your documents more efficient. StepShot is a software which enables creating technical documentation, so you don’t need to spend hours on it.
Luckily, you don’t have to do all the work on your own any more. StepShot works as follows: you go through the process from the beginning till the end. The documenting tool captures screenshots for every click and provides automate descriptions for each of them. What is left for you is to do extensive annotation of screenshots to make them as detailed as you can.
#4 Complicated processes should be explained gradually and particularly
Dividing a long process into steps gives your help document logical sense and clarity. Depending on the complexity level of the workflow you can decide how many steps to add.
Don’t be afraid to include obvious things, there is nothing bad about this. They may even turn out to be new for your end-users. So adding more steps kills two birds with one stone. It won’t confuse beginners and will ensure that they are on the right way (experienced users can always skip these additional steps).
#5 Step-by-step explanation makes your document look trustworthy
In other words, the first impression does matter. Technical instructions with big amount of steps, precise descriptions and annotated screenshots make people think you have spent much time preparing them. That very assumption makes your help guide really trustworthy and qualitative. With this in mind, a person is now motivated to check the document more carefully and will eventually find what he/she keeps an eye out for. If on the contrary, there is too much text, no clarity and there are no headings to guide a customer to a target, he/she will end up contacting your support team or will just give up making negative conclusions about the usability of your product.
In a nutshell, the main goal of a user guide is to give clarity and not to confuse a user further. That is why it has to be laconic, clear and easy to scan (not read). And all these characteristics can be met in a form of a step-by-step guide. Keep in mind, if an end-user doesn’t find your manual professional, nothing will stop him to think the same about your business. It’s not the time for being creative and writing novels. Instead, try to make it simple: explain everything gradually and step-by-step.If customers find your manual unprofessional, they will think the same about your company as well. Click To Tweet
So now, when you are more motivated to introduce your business decently, good luck with creating a step-by-step user guide which will stand out.