ClickHelp Technical Writing Blog
Stories for technical writers, web developers and web designers willing to grow

Design Tips for Technical Writers

Posted by
Anastasia in Documentation UX on 11/8/20193 min read

If you are concerned about your user manuals looking bad, this article will give you certain focus points improving which can turn the situation around.

How far you want to take it depends on your subjective opinion regarding this matter. Some people believe that when technical documents look neat, and there are no design elements distracting readers from the text (screaming font colors, terrible image quality, giant paddings, etc.) this is enough. And, in the general case, they are right, of course. Help authoring is not marketing - you won't be spending your time forever improving user manuals design like marketers do with websites.

However, we would still advise you to look at how you can improve certain things. Better looking documentation will definitely make your users happier!

Portal Home Page

The first tip is optional, so if you are not storing your user manuals in an online documentation portal, feel free to skip this one, or maybe stay to learn something new about these portals.

Okay, so, a doc portal stored online is a great way to deliver technical documentation. Basically, your customers can go to a certain web page and find all your user manuals waiting to be read.

That's practically a 'landing page' for the readers of your docs. If you are using ClickHelp, you know that we offer a nicely-looking home page design for your portal with a very clear structure and great options for branding. If you are using a custom made doc portal, make sure to think the home page design and layout through.

Color Schemes

Having a style guide makes everything so much easier, doesn't it? But, sometimes you will still need to add extra colors for things like warning icons, for example (it is not such a good practice to have them in pastel pink if that's the closest your corporate color palette has to red). And, sometimes, in smaller companies, there are no guidelines, or they are not strict. Anyway, the deal is - you might need to pick colors for your documentation project.

You will be pleasantly surprised to know that it can be a walk in the park with the resources the Internet offers. You can learn the simple magic of the color wheel or use apps and services that will do the color picking for you!

Also, make sure that your documentation works for colorblind people.

Fonts

Another thing that can give you trouble is fonts. When picking one for your technical documentation, please make sure that a decent number of people in this universe are familiar with it and are using it (an obligatory comic sans joke placeholder). Fonts are not the right place to show off your individuality, not if you are just a mortal. Maybe, the chosen few visionaries among designers can use weird and super rare fonts and get away with it, but we would strongly advise against this.

You see, the legible fonts are easier to read. Even this ongoing obsession with sans serif means only that people involved in UI figured out a simple truth - letters without serifs look more like the basic letter shapes and, therefore, our brain will recognize them much faster.

That's why the same fonts or really look-alike fonts can be found everywhere now! With that said, here's a concise font picking guide for you .

Page Layout

In case of user manuals, we get additional elements to consider in terms of page layout, like the table of contents. What it usually does is it occupies extra space on the left making the help topic text smaller.

As you know, the best practice for naming TOC items is giving them short and meaningful titles. But, understandably, this is not always possible, that’s why a nice design solution some of our clients use is modifying the TOC - you can find a lot of good layout examples in our portal gallery.

Conclusion

Here, we pointed out several specific areas that you might want to improve. Hopefully, with our advice, you will be able to create beautiful and, more importantly, comfortable user manuals.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

Are Your Manuals Ready for Mobile World?
Download Free Ebook

Want to become a better professional?

Get monthly digest on technical writing, UX and web design, overviews of useful free resources and much more.
Like this post? Share it with others:
×

Mind if we email you once a month?

Professionals never stop learning. Join thousands of experts subscribed to our blog to get tips, ideas and stories from us once per month.
Learn more on ClickHelp
×
By using this site, you agree to our Security Policy and Terms of Use.     Learn more