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User Manual Template

Product Managers often write the User Manual for their product. This may be the final version or an input to a technical writer. Here is a template I have used to get started on numerous occasions.

Contents of a User Manual

Preface: Call out your audience.

A product may have used by multiple types of users who may have a distinct user journey. Ideally, have a User Manual for each of the user type.

Prologue: Name and introduction of the product.

The official name, aka names (ever struggled with Mac OS X names and its actual version number when searching google for a solution for an issue?), version, logo, icon and a brief note on what the product does in the context of the audience user type

Chapter 1: Quick Start

A shortest, most direct userflow with no exception flow to get started, do a ‘hello world’ action and exiting. A tl-dr or ‘for impatient’ version. Best to use screenshots a lot with labels and annotations

Chapters 2-n: User Flows.

If there are multiple userflows, address each of the user flow per chapter. Start with a brief note on the flow, what it entails, what it accomplishes, and what could go wrong during the flow. Best to use screenshots a lot with labels and annotations

Appendix 1: List of Error messages.

And possible cases and next steps

Appendix 2: Support

How to contact official support, public forums where additional help can be sought

Appendix 3: FAQ.

Have one even if you have to start with just 1 questions but keep it growing

Meta

  • Have a uniform structure and template (user should know form the page layout, margins, colours, design what the page is about)
  • Have useful footers (page, product name and version)
  • Give meaningful titles to images
  • Have an index of image
  • Always assume your user is a novice who will follow your manual down to the last word
  • Do hand over the drafts to someone who is not familiar with the product and seek feedback if the information was useful enough
  • Choose Portrait mode (Word doc) if your users will print it more often and a Landscape mode (Powerpoint presentation) if your users will look at it onscreen more often

Have fun writing!

Feature Image Courtesy Peter Merholz (Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) ).

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Dinker Charak

Dinker has over a decade of experience in building products across diverse domains as Industrial Automation, Home Automations, Operating Systems, High Energy Particle Physics, Embedded Systems, Online Video Advertising, Messaging, K-12 education and Private Banking. He also founded Gungroo Software. His books #ProMa, Absolute and None & The Murmurs of the Dawn are available on Amazon.