How To Make An Efficnt User Manual

Posted : admin On 12/26/2021

Aug 09, 2017  Meet the “user manual”. The user manual aims to help people learn to adapt to one another by offering an explicit description of one’s personal values and how one works best with others. This shortens the learning curve for new employees, and helps everyone avoid misunderstandings. Helppier is the easiest way to guide users online. 3 steps and you create interactive user guides on top of your application. Without coding. Without switching tabs. With Helppier you can create product tours, tutorial videos, help articles, integrate a Knowledge Base and even track performance. Bring your content together in one single tool. A novel is supposed to be read from the first line straight through to the last. A manual, by contrast, should allow users to quickly find what they want while skipping past undesired information. If your manual is consistently divided into meaningful segments, it can increase user comprehension while making it easier to skip unwanted information.

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Style guides are a great way to ensure user experience consistency when developing an application and a way to communicate user experience standards across an organization. They can be application specific, platform specific, and may encompass enterprise-wide standards. A style guide can help make the development of user interfaces more efficient and help ensure good user interface design practices.

Types of Style Guides

Style guides for applications usually contain specific instructions on how to design and develop an application’s UI. In some instances, code snippets may also be provided to simplify development of the application.

Example of an application style guide specifying a web page template grid

Enterprise-wide style guides may include standards specific to an organization. These style guides may overlap with company branding style guides that are often defined by marketing departments. They can outline a variety of company-wide items such as standard colors, typography, logos and language.

Example of branding color definitions found in a corporate style guide

Platform specific guidelines are often tailored to a specific platform, such as desktop, web, or mobile. These style guides often give particular guidance on how to design for that platform, such as control and content guidelines.

How To Make An Efficient User Manual Pdf

Example of a link control definitions in a website style guide

The style guide you choose to create can be any combination of these three types. It’s up to you to figure out what makes the most sense for you.

Style Guides Are Not UI Specifications

Style guides are different from user interface specifications:

  • A specification document details the functionality of a UI design for developers building an application. It is usually more descriptive and is often accompanied by wireframes that act as blueprints for the design. In contrast, a style guide is often a general outline of the elements of a UI design.
  • Style guides have a longer shelf-life than specifications documents that are often tied to a project life-cycle. When an application is first created, some elements of the initial specification document might turn into the application style guide for long-term reference.
  • Elements of a style guide may be referred to from a specification. For example, the functionality of a web application enhancement would be captured in a specifications document; but the operation of standard UI controls found throughout the website would be outlined in the website style guide and referred to by the specifications document.

How to be Successful

Over the years, I have had a chance to create a variety of style guides. The format and purpose of these style guides were variable and were suited to the task at hand: such as details of the grid layout, colors and typography used in a website and a general guidebook providing guidance on the use of website user interface controls and how to write web-based content. From these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about what makes a style guide a success and I’d like to share some of these tips with you.

1. Keep the audience in mind

Style guides can be written for numerous audiences (e.g. other user experience practitioners, developers, graphic designers, business analysts, etc.) and the content should be structured to match the audience. Graphic designers would benefit from knowing the colors used in a website elements and programmers may desire knowing the code used to create a control.

2. Plan for success

When planning a style guide, seriously consider what would make your style guide successful in your organization. Would it be ensuring your company understands how to better design usable applications? Or would it be ensuring the large-scale website you are creating has a consistent user experience? Or would it be something else?

3. Keep it alive

Documents produced in traditional document formats can become stale and quickly become outdated. Successful style guides are produced in a manner that supports easy maintenance and supports a living document.

4. Define a review process

Create a process that supports modification and review of the style guide to actively ensure style guide maintenance and buy-in. You may want to have a person or group of people responsible for periodically updating a style guide.

5. Think of the platform differences

Style guides can be platform specific or neutral. Design guidelines can be different depending on the platform (i.e. Windows vs. Mac, iPhone vs. Blackberry). Consider how you want to support communicating any platform differences when creating your style guide.

6. Socialize the document in your organization

The use of your style guide should be communicated throughout all levels of your organization to ensure everyone knows the existence of the guide, understands how to use the guide, and actively works to use and maintain the guide. The more people about your style guide, the more successful you and your style guide will be.

7. Clearly define mandatory and flexible standards

User interface design is part art and part science and user interface paradigms shift quickly. Ensure that your style guides support new platforms and creative ideas by specifying what standards are mandatory and what are flexible. For example, you may want to ensure certain usability rules are strictly adhered to throughout your applications (i.e. “Sans serif fonts must be used for text that will be read on a screen”), but be more flexible in other areas (i.e. “Radio buttons should be used when a user is asked to select one item from a list of items.”)

8. Make the style guide as scannable and searchable as possible

Style guides can be very dense and contain a lot of detailed information. Search and browsing capabilities will make it easier for people to find what they are looking for in your style guide. In addition, use as many visual examples as possible to support quick scanning of style guide elements.

9. Provide real world examples

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Successful styles guides often show one or more examples from real applications for illustration. If you are writing a style guide for a specific application, use examples from that application to demonstrate your point. If you are writing a style guide for a large organization with many applications, ensure that your examples encompass all of the applications you are describing.

I hope you find these tips helpful when you are creating your own style guides. Do you have any additional tips you would like to share?

How To Make An Efficnt User Manual

Header image by nathanborror / /CC by 2.0

A few years ago I read an article by Adam Bryant, the “Corner Office” Columnist for the New York Times, that led with this provocative question: “What if you had to write a ‘User Manual’ about your leadership style?”

Bryant describes how transparency about our work style – our preferences, values, quirks and all – shortens the learning curve for others by making explicit things that might otherwise take months, or even years, to uncover.

I was intrigued by the piece and took his prompt to heart. I devoured others’ manuals for insights that resonated, and took a clear-eyed look at what makes me tick.

I sat with questions like: Which activities give me energy, and which deplete me? What are my unique abilities, and how do I maximize the time I spend expressing them? What do people misunderstand about me, and why?

What emerged is my personal “User Manual” which has been an important communication tool for my team, and a learning process for me.

Beyond giving my colleagues a window into my wiring (and, as fellow entrepreneur Aaron Hurst endearingly called it, my “flavor of craziness”), the experience of writing the piece - and refreshing it each year - has had other benefits. It’s an opportunity for self-reflection that probes beneath the surface to get at what Tara Brach calls, “Radical self-honesty, and the joy of getting real”.

The process is also an opportunity to get honest feedback from others. Once I had a draft, I shared it with my Leadership Team at Global Citizen Year to see how my view of myself lined-up with their experience of me. Incorporating their input required me to listen not for what I wanted to hear, but for what I needed to hear.

Today, everyone on our Leadership Team has their own User Manual, and it’s become an exercise we encourage all of our colleagues to adopt.

I’m a strong believer that leadership is a practice, not a position.

My User Manual is one of the ways I practice leading out loud. It’s a living document that describes my innate wiring and my growing edge, while putting it out to the world that I know I am – and aim to always be -- a work-in-progress.

Abby’s User Manual

My style

  • I’ve been hard-wired as an entrepreneur since I was a kid.
  • I hover in ambiguity and possibility, and am most energized when I’m connecting dots/people/resources that translate challenges into opportunities. I am always scanning for information to feed ideas in my mind, and typically do my best thinking out loud.
  • My high expectations are matched by my commitment to support people in meeting them. I believe in giving people freedom, flexibility and “stretch” assignments, and equipping them with the tools they need to uncover and develop their potential.
  • I’m determined to prevent my attention from being hijacked by technology. I never open my computer until I’ve written my quick list of what I intend to do; I hide my inbox to help me focus, and I’ve tried to take control of my phone by removing everything that’s not a “tool” from my home screen.

What I value

  • I value resourcefulness and proactivity. Be smart, move fast and pivot quickly. Ask forgiveness rather than permission.
  • I’m obsessed with efficiency: I touch each email only once (respond, delete, delegate, or delay), and live by the law of 80/20 – often prioritizing promptness (ie. 24-hour rule in following up on a meeting) over perfection. I start each day by “eating my frog” when my energy and attention are fresh.
  • I expect my teammates to value efficiency as well. Before doing something “the way it’s always been done,” scan for an easier, cheaper, simpler way to maximize your “return on effort”. Before starting something from scratch, ask if it’s already been tried.
  • I value scrappiness and feel an obligation to our staff, Fellows, partners and donors to focus our limited time and resources on the “real good” vs. the “feel good”.
  • I believe work-life alignment matters more than work-life balance, and that strategic self-care – whether sleeping enough, leaving work early to exercise, meditate, or spend time in nature – is the key ingredient to becoming our best, most productive and happy selves. I am religious about spending time unplugged – a day a week, and a few weeks a year.

What I don’t have patience for

  • If you make a mistake or something is heading off the rails, tell me before the crash. Failure is great (as long as you learn quickly); surprises are not.
  • I get antsy with hypothetical musings and over-analysis. I learn best through experience and experimentation and have a strong bias toward action.
  • I default to trust, but if my confidence is shaken, it’s hard to rebuild. Ways to lose my trust: not following through, withholding important information, avoiding hard conversations, or treating others with disrespect.
  • I am turned off by entitlement, boredom and taking things for granted – it’s a privilege to do what we do, and it’s our joyful responsibility to take our work seriously, but not ourselves!

How best to communicate with me

  • Be crisp. Start with the headlines. I prefer bullet points to prose, and .PPT to .DOC.
  • I love to solve problems, remove barriers and help others move the ball forward. Come to me not just with problems, but with plausible solutions and your recommended course of action.
  • I value authenticity, honesty and transparency. If I say something you disagree with, tell me. I am hungry to be challenged in thoughtful and constructive ways. I respect people who have the right blend of confidence and humility to know when to question someone (even the boss!), and when to defer to another's expertise.

How to help me

  • I move quickly and don’t always catch every detail (except when it comes to our brand and communications where I’m a painstaking perfectionist). I appreciate help making sure the details are covered, and flagging for me any that need my attention.
  • Nudge me when it’s time to start or end a meeting - but have (some) patience with my flexible approach to time.
  • Tell me what I need to know, not what you think I want to hear.

What people misunderstand about me

  • I am an introvert, posing as a professional extrovert. Don’t confuse my tendency to work alone in my office with being disengaged. My door’s always open.
  • I speak with conviction, but I’m not set in my thinking. I'm open-minded and always delighted to be shown a better way. I make decisions quickly, but if you give me reasoning or data that points in another direction, I’ll happily change course.

Finally, I may be the boss, but I’m also a person, a teammate and a messy work-in-progress. I’m committed to always getting better at my job, and to becoming a wiser, kinder and more impactful human.

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What would your User Manual say? Check out this this piece to get started: Five Steps to Create a personal User Manual

How To Make An Efficient User Manual 2017

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