Everything You Need to Make a Successful User Manual

user manual hero image

So you’re looking to make a user manual.

If you’ve reached this point, we can only assume that you’ve got a great product to showcase!

All great products come with a great user manual to help customers find their way around. In this guide, we will talk about everything you need to make a stunning user manual.

Who is your audience?

Defining your audience is one of the most important parts of writing a user manual. You have to think to yourself: What problems do they want to solve? This question plays a big role in what you need to cover, and how in-depth you want it to be.

It’s always good to play it safe and create a user manual with the first-time user in mind. This way, newcomers have a way to learn, and regular users have a reliable source to look back to in case they need it.

What is your product?

The two biggest types of products here are physical and digital. This difference between these two affects how you go about making your user manual. Do you need to take your own pictures using a camera and import them onto your computer, or do you need to take screenshots of your screen to show a digital process?

For this post, we will focus on the latter, and use Snagit to capture our screenshots.

The process

1. Gather your visuals

Now, this is the long bit – the process of taking screenshot after screenshot to make sure you can thoroughly explain your product.

Luckily, Snagit has all the gizmos and gadgets you could ever need for a user manual.

Make GIF’s and screen recordings for digital manuals, or make screenshots for printed versions. Complete this with the intuitive editor to focus your viewers’ attention.

The ability to edit your screenshots to show specific details is important to you and the viewer. So, open Snagit, and get to it!

2. Edit your screenshots

With Snagit, there is a built-in editor for everything you need when making a user manual. You can add arrows, boxes, text, and more.

One feature that I want to focus on is the simplify tool. Simplified User Interfaces (SUI) are great to ignore all the unnecessary information, future-proof your content, and make your visuals appeal to all, no matter the language.

For example, look at these two separate images, which one is easier to understand? 

Comparing Regular screenshot to a screenshot with Simplified User Interface (SUI). Uses Snagit's Simplify feature.
Original Screenshot (left) vs. SUI Screenshot (right)

As you can see from the image on the right, your eyes immediately go to what is being showcased. After it has been simplified, the screenshot is much easier to understand and follow.

Software is always changing, and with constant updates, it’s hard to keep training materials up to date. Snagit’s Simplify feature is a perfect way to show the process, without having to make new screenshots for every UI update.

Here is where to find Snagit’s Simplify tool:

Alternatively, you could use arrows, annotations, or any other feature that would fit the look you’re going for in your user manual.

Writing your copy

Screenshots aren’t the only important factor of a user manual. While screenshots are helpful by themselves, combining them with copy can provide a more detailed explanation than pictures alone.

Maybe you want to highlight an alternative way of doing something or explain what certain features are. The goal of your copy is to be detailed, but not too lengthy. Remember that users want to find answers as quickly as possible.

For example, if I wanted to explain the blur tool in Snagit, I would write something like this:

“Our blur tool is useful for many situations. Maybe you want to blur out personal information from a screenshot, or use the tool to focus your users’ attention even more. With adjustable blurs, you can customize it to whatever situation you may need.”

You can also use apps like Hemingway Editor or Grammarly to make sure your text is the best it can be.

Finishing your user manual

You’ve made it. You’ve taken your screenshots, edited them to look stunning, written your copy, and all you have left to do is put them all together. You aren’t going to want to send a folder with all the screenshots and expect your users to be able to piece them together. Remember, assume they know nothing about your product. Lucky for you, there are a few options to compile all of your material into a sleek user manual.

Snagit’s Combine in Template feature

To combine your images into a template, select multiple images from the dock, right-click, and choose “Combine in Template…”

The left-click popup to find the "Combine in Template..." option
Combine in Template... Templates

Snagit 2020 has a ton of preset templates, and you can download even more with a TechSmith Assets for Snagit subscription! Within the template, Snagit allows you to edit the title, captions, picture order, and anything else you desire to make your manual look the way you want it to!

What a template looks like after inserting pictures, titles, and captions.

Alternatively, you can use a document app, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, to compile all of your information and screenshots. Within these tools, you can drag and drop your images, add text, and export as a PDF to send to your users!

After putting together all of these new skills and tools, you’ve learned how to make a professional user manual, congratulations!

Now you can be confident that customers will know exactly how to use your product, and they won’t have to worry about confusion. Here’s to many more great user manuals for your great products!

Don’t forget to download your free-trial of Snagit to get started on your user manual!

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