The Best User Experience in Documentation

Author: Calvin Truong, Sr. Application Developer

Documentation is vital but not flashy.  It’s imperative that our clients understand how to utilize the products we have created for them, but it’s often an overlooked part of our deliverables.  How do we make sure the users have the best experience using our product?

What is the End Goal?

We must understand what the end goal is for the user.  If it’s education there must be enough detail to provide understanding of all concepts.  If it’s instruction we should make sure the details are clear and concise.  In many cases, users reading our documentation will have little or no experience with our product.  Keeping the end goal in mind will keep the focus on providing the proper amount and type of documentation.

Simplified Language is Key!

Anytime I find myself reading user guides I always think of ways to make it easier for me to understand what I need to learn or do.  Instructions or concepts should be concise, yet detailed.  Always try to put yourself in the shoes of the user who has no background on the product before jumping into the documentation.  Would they be able to understand and work with the product with just the documentation and no formal training?

Pair Visualizations with Documentation.

Visualizations pair excellently with documentation.  Pictures are great to reinforce to the user what they should be doing. We can explain a process and show what the result of that process should look like.  There’s nothing better than being able to demonstrate what should be happening without being with the user. 

Order Matters.

Remember the order of operations from math class?  This simple concept is helpful for us too!  The order in which we present information to a user is important.  Our goal is simplicity and we want each concept to build on previous ones as much as possible.  That way we can make sure there’s a logical flow that will make sense to the user.

A great product is made better with great documentation.  Inevitably, there will be scenarios where people will begin to use our products with little to no experience.  Focusing on creating the best user experience will form a lasting, positive impression.