Before you start working on your end-user documentation make sure you are paying enough attention to the target audience of your piece of writing. In this article, you will find the explanations on why knowing your readers is significant in the process of writing a user manual for you to be successful.
In the article “Effective help guide: 5 reasons why make it step-by-step?”, we’ve already mentioned that: “if an end-user doesn’t find your manual professional, nothing will stop him from thinking the same about your organization”. So, keep in mind that it’s better to go an extra mile in understanding your audience to look professional and bring some value.
People are not alike: they might be of different ages, occupations, their levels of knowledge are most likely to vary as well. The needs and goals differ from one person to another. You should consider all the above-mentioned factors to be able to produce a truly handy guide. However, don’t try to guess or assume the info about your readers as you might easily overshoot. If there is such an opportunity, it would be useful to communicate with the target audience of your end-user documentation and ask what goals they want to achieve while reading it. This very information is the key to success!
Here are 4 reasons to know who you are writing for:
1. You will clarify the primary goal of your work:
If you know the goals of your customers – you know your own goals. Well, every piece of end-user documentation, a user guide, in particular, has its purpose. It has been created to satisfy somebody’s needs and no surprise that readers look for the answers in it. As a writer, you have to ensure you know who your readers are and whether you answered their questions.
2. You will know how to present and frame the information
Remember, approaches vary from one group of users to another. While beginners find it easier to comprehend if there are visuals such as screenshots, advanced users, in turn, will appreciate if you include more thorough information on a product.
Besides, knowing your target audience will dictate the vocabulary of the documentation. Such characteristics as the awareness level of the product, users’ age, the occupation can differ from one to another, and accordingly – the words you need to use have to be relevant to the main audience.
3. It will help you decide on a user guide format
Without knowing your target audience you won’t be able to choose the format of a user document. And no wonder – every specific format is aimed at a reader with this or that level of knowledge and product awareness.
There are two main types of user guides: a functional guide and a procedural guide. The first one provides a description of each individual button and text field while the second one explains how to perform a particular step-by-step workflow with the help of a product in order to solve a single problem. To be precise: functional guide explains the “whats” of a software product, while the procedural guide provides you with all the “hows” of different features and procedures. Thus, the beginners are mostly interested in functional details, whereas experienced ones are ready to dive deeper into all possible procedures that are there.
4. You will build a strong image of a trusted vendor
Even though it is generally believed that nobody ever reads user manuals, sooner or later there will be an emergency when one will need to refer to this help guide hoping to find an answer to the question which bothers him/her. If it does not meet their needs, they will simply feel at a loss and, as a result – they might form a negative opinion about the usability of your product. The consequences of poor understanding of your target audience are both the spoilt reputation of the product and your credibility as a vendor.
To sum up, knowing your target audience is crucial for producing end-user documentation that brings real value. If you care about pursuing exact goals in your writing, presenting and framing the info in the expected format and keeping your company and product reputation up to the level – you shouldn’t neglect the basic reasons for knowing who you are writing for.