Skip to main content
10 easy tips to create a foolproof user guide
Share on socials

10 easy tips to create a foolproof user guide

A headshot of Elaine Keep
Elaine Keep
15th May, 2024
A purple book with a spanner on its cover on a stylised background
A headshot of Elaine Keep
Elaine Keep
15th May, 2024
Jump to section
What is a user guide?
Topics to cover
10 helpful tips

Help customers to learn your product (or service) inside out. Here are our 10 tips for creating the best user guide.

Been looking to create a user guide for your business so users can get information on your product or service? These 10 tips will help you quickly create your own from scratch.

From how to structure your guide to the number one thing to never do, here are some documentation best practices for user guides.

What is a user guide?

A user guide (also known as an instruction manual, maintenance manual, or technical documentation) is a document that helps customers understand a product or service. It provides a defined, logical structure to ensure sufficient information about your product or service is provided.

Topics to cover in your user guide

Your product or service is unique, but you’ll likely want to include the following information:
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Step-by-step to get started
  • Features/technical specifications
  • Troubleshooting and error messages
  • FAQs
  • Legal information
  • Glossary
  • Contact information
  • Further reading
  • Index

10 helpful tips for creating a user guide

How can you create a really effective user guide? Gather your colleagues for a session to pull information, and start with the basic layout of your document. Naturally, you'll need the perfect place to create a template that lives in your workspace and can be easily edited and accessed. 

1. Write for your audience

What users do you have? Are they technical or new to the business? When you write for who your users are you ensure the correct language, complexity, and design of your user guide.

2. Focus on layout

Use eye-catching design elements and easy-to-follow layouts to make your guide visually appealing. Highlight key content with colour and images and include interactive elements like buttons and tabs to make it enticing to read on. Confluence add-ons - such as Content Formatting Macros for Confluence - make creating a smart user guide quick and easy.

3. Consider usability

While it’s key to break up text with headings, bullet points, and icons to make information digestible, also consider how it would look printed, on a mobile device, or tablet. Users will grab the information in many different ways, and your marketing teams might also want to slice and dice any content from your user guide too, so think broadly.

4. Cut the jargon

A great tip for any document in business is to avoid jargon and technical terms that might confuse your audience unless you are writing for a technical team. Even if you have something very detailed and complex, include a glossary of terms, explain acronyms, and keep the rest of your language simple.

5. Structure using logic

It’s really important to organise your user guide information in a logical order. Don’t forget that readers may be in a rush, time-poor, or facing an issue. An index and contents page should be used, and more basic concepts should always be shared before more advanced tips. For example, ‘quick start’ instructions should come before troubleshooting.
An advert for a free 30-day trial of Confluence's Guided Pathways app
Create clear user guides in Confluence - try Guided Pathways with a free 30-day trial

6. Show don’t tell

Illustrations are fantastic ways to break up content. As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words. You could show where a button is, explain how specifically to do something, or use screengrabs or photos to demonstrate.

7. Sweep up with FAQs

Is there important information not included within your subheadings? Add it to a FAQ page or ‘Did you know?’ area. Depending on how much additional content you have to share, you can anticipate questions or provide tips and hints.

8. Test with a sample of users

Before it goes anywhere, your user guide should have a small beta test with a few members of your desired audience.

Ask them if they found it effective and clear, or try to get them to find the answer to some typical questions using the guide. You’ll want a mix of customers who are new to using your product and service and those who are confident and comfortable with your business.

9. Keep it updated

Review and update your user guide regularly to reflect product updates, user feedback, and any changes in your product's look or feel. An outdated guide can be more confusing than helpful.

10. Start with a template

Select a template that aligns with your brand and is suitable for the type of information you're presenting.

  • Ensure the template you pick is flexible enough to accommodate text, images, and diagrams all in one place.

  • Consider how information can be accessed quickly. For example, a Livesearch macro search bar can help users quickly find what they're looking for.

  • Consider the overall look and feel. Apps such as Content Formatting Macros for Confluence can help you structure and style Confluence pages to meet your team's needs.

Ready to get stuck in?

Content Formatting Macros make it easy to create an engaging user guide in Confluence.
Written by
A headshot of Elaine Keep
Elaine Keep
Content Writer
Elaine has established herself as a respected authority in the HR industry and uses her experience gained as the head of marketing in the employee rewards and recognition software sector to inform her reporting.
Knowledge Management