ClickHelp Software Documentation Glossary: Definitions of Main Terms, Concepts

What is User Manual?

Another name for User Guide.

A user manual is a type of technical documentation that helps people use, maintain, and fix this or that product. A product can be a tool, mechanism, device, app, etc. The main goal is to do it safely and efficiently. But there can be secondary goals as well: meeting legal requirements or creating a great user experience, for example. In other words, a user manual educates readers on a product. A comprehensive user manual consists of both text and visuals (graphics, tables, illustrations, etc.), procedures (detailed instructions) and concepts. A user manual is written for all kinds of users. Not only beginners read it, experienced users sometimes need to refresh their knowledge and look up some relevant information.

A user manual usually contains the following information: product name, type, features, elements, safety warnings, installation, maintenance, repair information, glossary. This type of technical documentation can be both as long as a book and only several pages long. Today, user manuals can be of different formats: printed and online. The latter is becoming more and more popular.

Here are some tips on how to write a user manual:

  • Define your goal. When you know what you want to tell users, you are ready to represent the information in the form of step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow.
  • Define your reader. When you know whom you are writing for, you know how to write.
  • Use clear language. Do not use technical jargon for non-technical audiences.
  • Use visuals (pictures, screenshots, diagrams, illustrations, etc.). They make information more comprehensive.
  • Make sure your online user manual is easy to find. It matters a lot if you want to increase the number of readers.

To create user manuals, technical writers use a help authoring tool. It is a piece of software that enables technical writers to easily write and publish documentation, collaborate, keep track of progress, etc.

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