User Documentation, also known as End-user Documentation, refers to the documentation for a product or service provided to the end users. It aims in providing information about the product. Also, this is often referred to as user assistance.
It could be based on a product or a service provided or a complete end to the end project documentation, that directly helps the end user.
Technically speaking, a useful user document should have all documentation and essentials that are required and related to the entire product cycle. The user documentation is a part of the overall product delivered to the customer; end-to-end.
It starts from the initiation phase to the closure, ie, end to end product life cycle.
The primary and most essential criteria of a person who wants to write an IDEAL USER DOCUMENT/ DOCUMENTATION is, the writer has to understand the technology it describes completely.
Types of User Documentation
There are basically 3 types of user documentation written for different users and their purposes.
Description Document – gives a detailed overview of the product with all the services offered by the product. End-users read this document and decide if this the product he is looking for or not.
Installation and Setup – has detailed information on installing & setting up the product and how to operate the product.
User Manual – it gives the normal functions of the product with illustrated examples. It has all the ‘How-to’ information regarding the regular use of the product.
Difference Between Technical Documentation and User Documentation
There are mainly 2 key differences. Before we push in further into the best examples, let us see these differences.
Usually, a technical writer or a team of technical writers are responsible for compiling the technical documentation. The main agenda of this team is to contribute effectively to the formalized document for the technicians. Technical Documentation is not shared externally.
Whereas user documentation is shared to all users and it emphasizes on the fact that all technical detailing may not be productive or necessary for the user. Hence they provide a user-friendly that provides effective knowledge on the product for its beneficial usage.
Usually, a User Documentation Consists of:
- User manuals
- Step by step guides
- Videos of the product
- Product Demos
- Pre-launch publishing
- Embedded assistance
- Online chart portals
- Support Teams with hotlines
The Main Goal of User Documentation is to –
- Provides the answer to the questions – “ HOW TO.”
- Step by step procedures
- Do and Don’ts
- Tips and Tricks
- Minimal hardware & software requirements
- Guide for installation
- Various ways to perform one action
- Cautions and Warnings
- Warranty & Guarantee information.
- Common errors & Troubleshoot manual
- Information to contact the developer of the system immediately and directly if an undocumented question arises
Without user documentation, an amateur user may not know how to do any of these above things.
5 – Best examples of User Documentation:
Here are some of the examples of documentation sites which had the best user documentation.
CA Technologies is one of the largest software corporations in the world. It provides varieties of software like systems software and applications software that runs in mainframe, virtual machine, cloud computing environments, and mobile devices. Having so many software requires one of the best documentation systems to help the users to best use their software and to help them troubleshoot issues.
Their documentation sites give you clear options for choosing the exact software and the different software version. It also provides a clear Table of Contents (TOC) in the collapsible accordion form to help navigate the documents. You also download the documents in PDF and EPUB format.
Skype is a very popular video chatting tool from Microsoft. Different people use it for various purposes like Business, Educational, and Personal, etc.,
Skype has a feature loaded support page with good document sorting and navigation options. You can sort documents for different Devices, Topics, and Sub-topics. You can also see how many read the documents and how many found them helpful. It has good navigation using TOC and breadcrumbs. There are FAQs with troubleshooting information attached to each of them. All the documents also link to relevant resources for more details.
MetricInsights is a push intelligence platform which makes use of your user engagement data and other data to give you actionable insights on your website.
Their documentation site gives separate documents for Administrators and other users.
The documents are well categorized into topics and sub-topics and have good navigation options through Breadcrumbs, TOC, and view the Previous / Next option. The related documents are linked to each other, and you can generate a manual PDF of the document you want.
WHMCS is a web host billing automation platform which aims to automate every part of the web hosting business. Their helps the customers with practical information on the automation process.
They have a simple but practical documentation site. The site has a super fast document search to help you find the right document. It also has 2 TOC with one TOC on the sidebar for navigating Topics and another inside the document for in-page navigation. There is also a document feedback option.
Iconic Docs is the documentation site of IconicFramework a web technology to create cross-platform web apps. Their documentation is collaboratively created by their community and has a frontend option to edit the documents. It is continually revised, reviewed, and updated by the community.
It has FAQs, troubleshooting guides, Glossary, Tips, and more. It also has a good search bar and 2 TOC, one for topic navigation and other for in-page navigation on both sides of the document. The documents can also be translated into different languages.
The Best User Documentation Tool
All the User Documentation examples seen above have different designs and features to support the documentation purposes of their product and services. They are created with various tools and platforms. But there is a user documentation tool with which you can create all these types of user documentation sites. It is called Helpie Knowledge Base.
Helpie knowledge base is a WordPress knowledge base, and documentation plugin with you can create many types of documentation sites.
If you choose to give Helpie a chance for your documents you can see how to create a documentation site with WordPress