Before You Start Writing The End-User Guide

Most of the times, you start writing immediately after understanding the product in your own way. It is something like you are participating in a running competition; while everybody stands on a horizontal line and the moment the whistle blows off, you start running without thinking about anything except to finish the race as fast as possible. May be this particular strategy is applicable for running competition, but not for technical writing. Here, you need to do so many things before you start writing about a particular piece of software-in-action. Read further to know what to do.
End-user documentation is nothing but conveying information about a particular piece of software to the lay man (end user) who is supposed to use it to accomplish his/her own purpose/ task. Technical writers have the capability to present a highly complex terminology-driven software functionality in a simple layman like terms. And this is also what end users require. End user is like a layman; s/he is not interested neither in complex terminology nor in the software’s ultra-advance functionality. S/he wants to do his/her part of work using the piece of software as quickly as possible and effectively. That’s it – nothing less, nothing more.
Before you start writing a guide, as a Technical Writer, you need to know your target audience. You have to study them including their working habits. You need to understand how they have been performing the same job, so far, manually and where does this new piece of software will fit in their working lives. Then, you need to think about how can you explain the software functionality to these end users who does not care much about anything except their task in hand.
People seek knowledge. But, they stop doing it if the subject matter becomes complex. As a Technical Writer, it is your duty and job to make the subject matter easy to the reader. If the software is full of complex functionalities, then there is a high possibility that the end user may not understand or tackle it properly. As a writer, you need to step into the shoes of the end user; train your mind to think and ask doubts just like how a end user does. Then, start writing the information in such a way that when the end user reads it, s/he must feel that it is easy for them to complete the task using the new software rather than doing that manually. As a matter of fact, technical writer’s job does not complete after writing the guide. It completes only when the user feels comfortable with the software and whenever in doubt, refers the guide to clarify his/her doubt instead of looking for other means.
In summary, writing end user documentation is not an easy task. Just by understanding the functionality of the software in your own way and creating a guide without thinking about the end users takes you nowhere. Analyzing your target audience is compulsory before you jumpstart writing about the software in hand.

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