What are the products of technical writing

6 Technical Writing Principles That Will Make Your Documentation More User-Friendly

A user-friendly documentation is a successful documentation for every technical writer. However, writing one can be difficult, especially if you are looking for one writes a wide audience spanning various countries and languages. Here we introduce effective technical writing principles to guide you as you write easy-to-use help materials.

Principles for technical writing of user-friendly documentation

Let's take a closer look at these principles in detail ...

1. Explain complicated terms

One of the main reasons many product users fail to read Help files is the technical language they contain. What may be a straightforward term to you as a technical writer may be one of the most complicated terms they have ever come across for some users.

So if you want to describe a complicated process, for example, it is a good idea to explain it to users using examples. Any example you use can add clarity to your content.

For example, using three examples to explain a hard-to-understand term or phrase will help your users understand it better than using just one example. In which not every term or technical expression necessarily needs an example. Always remember, however, that examples are an important tool in technical writing for conveying complex information to users in a way that is easier to understand.

2. Find a balance between text and artwork

Help documentation and instructions for use don't have to be boring. Add visuals to make your documentation attractive. Whether workflow plans, annotated screenshots, diagrams, drawings or just photos, image materials enrich your documentation.

Image materials complement the text, offer an additional format of explanation, address the visual learning mode of the human brain and serve as brief instructions for your users when performing tasks. Artwork can be difficult to make, but is definitely worth it.

If you plan to translate your documentation into multiple languages, or if you intend to focus more on code examples than on visuals, you may need just a few illustrations. But that's not to say that you shouldn't try to communicate with visuals whenever possible. Imagery is understandable to almost everyone across borders, even without text.

3. Be the first to test your instructions

To evaluate your help materials, you should review your guides and complete the tasks yourself. Testing the instructions yourself may seem natural, and in the case of GUI documentation, it usually is too. In reality, however, it is often difficult to do.

However, it is fairly easy to tell when a technical writer has written documentation based solely on information given to him by someone else, rather than from information he has learned. So always be sure to go through and test your instructions yourself.

4. Work with quality assurance to get test cases for what you are documenting

When you work as a technical writer, your colleagues in quality assurance should be your best friends. Because they usually know the system best. They create test environments to ensure functionality, and often they have a number of test cases (features to be tested) for each version.

For example, if you are documenting an API, the QA engineers may already have test plans ready to use. Writing documentation can be a lot easier with the help of the QA department.

However, in some cases, Quality Assurance may not have the high-level information about the various scenarios for which a particular function can be used. In many cases it just tests whether the function is working. You may need to consult the product managers to get an idea of ​​what the feature is used for. Nevertheless, it is generally true that one Working with your quality assurance team can make your job a lot easier.

5. Include feedback from your users in your rating

To understand the real value of your documentation, you will need direct user feedback. You cannot draw a logical conclusion based on assumptions. The question of whether your users understand the documentation, whether it meets their requirements, etc. can only be answered specifically if you receive concrete feedback from the target persons who use your help materials.

Learn more about audience analysis in technical writing here.

In order to take into account feedback from users and properly evaluate your help material, you should consider interacting with them directly (for example, through a call center, social network, or forum). Do not forget about it it is difficult to evaluate your own help file based on your own experience alone. This is among the top 5 skills you need to be a great technical writer.

And even after you've checked all of the instructions and determined that they work, you may be too familiar with them and quickly check them off. Or you may forget some required information or misinterpret the delivery platforms, scenarios, etc.

6. Publish your help materials in a format that is easy to use

Don't limit your help materials to just one or two formats. Users often have access to several different devices and operating systems. Here is an overview of the 7 best formats for posting your help materials.

With a help development tool such as HelpNDoc, you can create your content in several different formats (e.g. as Windows CHM help files, WEB-based documentation, iPhone-specific websites, printable PDF and Word documents, ePub and Kindle - Document and publish e-books and Qt cross-platform help files. HelpNDoc is free for personal use and evaluation purposes.

Have fun documenting!