How to Create a User Guide in 6 Steps [+Free Template]

Timan Wainaina
November 1, 2022
min read
September 24, 2023
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Help customers get the most out of your product. Write effective user guides with this step-by-step guide.
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A product user guide can make or break the customer experience.

This blog shares tips for DevOps, product and software development teams on writing effective user guides, with tools and templates that make it easier than ever to create a user guide.

Wh‎at is a user guide?

A user guide or product guide is an instructional material that accompanies your product, service or system to help end users use it. They're also known as:

The goal of a user guide is to provide step-by-step user instructions (or assembly for physical products) to help users better understand your product or service. They cover detailed information like:

  • Operations.
  • Functionalities.
  • Standards.
  • Guidelines.
  • Troubleshooting.

... and more.

Technical writers usually create user guides. But they can also be written by product developers, project managers, programmers or technical teams with the help of knowledge base software.

Free user guide template

User guides cover all aspects of a product, including its design, operation, potential issues, problems and more. They can include:

  • Product description content. 
  • Product features. 
  • Product installation guide.
  • Setup and configuration. 
  • Use cases.
  • Potential product risks and how to solve them.
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs). 
  • Product demos, video tutorials and walkthroughs.
  • Troubleshooting tips. 
  • How-to articles.
  • Help pages.

Try this free user guide template to kick-start your user documentation.

‎Ho‎w to create a user guide in 6 steps

Here's a summary of essential steps to include when creating a compelling and valuable user guide.

1. Identify your audience 

Who will use the guide? When identifying your audience, you'll need to consider:

  • Level of technical knowledge.
  • Demographics.
  • User needs.
  • Common problems or frustrations.
  • Requirements.
  • Other related information.

This will tell you how much detail your user manual should have and the form, style and language to use.

Identify the potential problems and provide solutions in your guide. The guide should fix the problem rather than simply give users workarounds.

2. Outline the process steps

Map out the user journey and capture every touchpoint along the journey. See your product from the user's perspective to be sure you create customer-centric user documentation.

You may need to categorize your users into segments based on their product use cases to develop a complete guide that works for all users.

Break down your instructions into a sequence, such as a numbered list, steps, etc., to organize your guide so that it's easy to understand and apply.

Also, stick to one point per step to make the instructions easy to follow. Tell users what the completed step will look like before they move to the next step.

3. Choose a tool or template

Your documentation needs to be consistent. We recommend using a tool like Scribe to help you write a user guide.

Scribe is an AI-powered tool that writes user guides for you. The tool captures your workflow to create a visual step-by-step guide — in seconds.

You can also use a template to help you create a user guide. Choose a style that's clear and easy to follow, with elements like:

  • Introduction space. 
  • Sections and subsections.
  • Sequential steps.
  • How-to instructions.
  • Links to other sections or content.
  • FAQs.

Also, stay consistent with your font size, text, background, contrast and color coding.

4. Structure your user document

A well-written user manual needs an organized structure for easy navigation, readability and convenience. Here are some suggestions to format your content.

  • Divide content into sections with titles, headings, subheadings and categories.
  • Use bold and italics to separate different information. 
  • Use capital words or underline key terms. 
  • Create a table of contents for the whole guide and each section for easy navigation.
  • Number your steps. 
  • Explain symbols, icons, graphs, and codes, so your users aren't confused. 

Creating a good structure is important for easy navigation and scanning.

Can your users understand your content and follow it? Write your user guide content in simple, clear and compelling language. Streamline your content to include only essential elements to avoid bogging readers down.

It's best to assume that your audience lacks an extensive technical background, so avoid jargon and technical terminology when possible.

5. Review your user guide

Before you release the document, put your instructions to the test. Ask stakeholders to run through the process with your user documentation. Use this time to see if anything is missing or redundant.

Make sure that your language is clear and easy to understand. Ask someone who has never gone through the process to confirm.

If it works for a user who's never used the product before, it's a great user manual. If your tester gets stuck, note where users are confused and revise the content. Your goal is for users to resolve their issues without submitting support tickets. 

6. Publish and distribute your user guide

Once the guide is ready, choose your distribution channel. This could include:

  • Physical copies.
  • Digital formats (such as PDFs or Scribes)
  • Integrations in the product's software interface (such as embedded or recommended Scribes)

Also, implement regular updates and feedback mechanisms to keep the user guide current and address user concerns. This way, you'll enhance the overall user experience and product satisfaction.

User guide software can help you monitor and easily update your content over time.

Wh‎at are the benefits of a user guide?

User manuals are important for ensuring a product's safe and proper use. They can also help users get the most out of your product and increase customer retention. Here are a few benefits of creating user guides.

User instruction

User guides provide step-by-step information on how to use your product, service or system, increasing product adoption.

Positive customer service experience

User guides create a positive customer experience. Seventy percent of customers now expect a company's website to include a self-service application before they reach customer support. Excellent user guides contribute to customer satisfaction.

Customer support

User guides work as a point of reference to solve customer problems. Customer support teams can use them to save time and reduce support inquiries.

Brand image

Providing customers with helpful information and user-friendly layouts creates confidence and loyalty in your brand.

Staff training

User documentation can help your staff understand your product or service better. Product guides also serve as reference materials for employee onboarding.

Wh‎at are the different types of user guides?

User documentation materials take many forms, depending on your product, service or system. Here are a few of the most common types of user guides.

  • FAQs: Answers to frequently asked questions about the product.
  • Instruction manuals: Basic instructions on how to use a product, typically written for new users.
  • Quick start guides: A high-level overview of the product and its features, with step-by-step instructions.
  • Operation manuals: Detailed instructions on all aspects of the product, including advanced features and troubleshooting.
  • Service manuals: Detailed diagrams and instructions for disassembling and repairing the product, written for technicians who need to repair or maintain a product.
  • Online knowledge bases: An online library of information about a product, service, department, or topic.
  • Product feature walkthroughs: An interactive walkthrough for every product feature that offers contextual help triggered by a customer's action on the product feature.
  • Product tours: Interactive, detailed onboarding tutorials that provide step-by-step processes for customer or employee onboarding.
  • Video tutorials: Visual walkthroughs on how to use the product.

User guide Fr‎equently asked questions

What's the difference between system, product and user documentation?

System documentation describes a system, its components, and their interactions. It helps people understand and use the system.

Product documentation and user documentation are the two main types of system documentation.

  • Product documentation is written for developers, system administrators and other technical users. It describes the system requirements, design and implementation.
  • User documentation is written for customers or employees, describing how to use the system for its intended purpose.

What makes a good user guide?

Each product or service may be unique, but their user guides may share certain features for easy reference, like:

1. Use simple language

Customers can feel frustrated when they can't understand technical terms. Using plain language, short sentences and simple words when writing a user guide make it easy to follow. 

2. Logical hierarchy

Help users find what they need fast by including a table of contents, titles, headings, subheadings and sections.

3. Visuals

Without visuals, your user manual is just a long, boring text block. Include visuals like videos, images, screenshots, diagrams, etc., to create engaging documentation.

4. Searchable content

Give customers an online search form for quick navigation. Providing a digital knowledge base with a search engine makes finding the support they need easy.

5. Relevance 

A good user guide has informational articles relevant to meet user needs. Organize your topics in a way that makes sense to the user. Too many topics or sub-topic levels in product documentation can overwhelm users. 

6. Feedback and reviews

Actively seek user feedback to know what to include, what works and what needs to be improved. Incorporate relevant suggestions in your user manual. 

7. Links to more resources

Include links to other internal resources and pages to help users improve their product knowledge. You can include links to a demo, website, tutorials, user forums, FAQs, phone numbers, etc.

How do you write a user guide?

When writing a user guide, it is essential to provide clear and concise instructions for users to follow.

  • Consider your target audience and their level of technical knowledge.
  • Use a step-by-step format.
  • Include screenshots or diagrams.
  • Avoid jargon and overly complex technical terms.

What are the common challenges of creating user guides? 

Long and technical documentation:

A user manual contains detailed instructions (maintenance, operating, technical), descriptions, diagrams, flow charts, drawings and more. Being concise can be challenging.


It can be time-consuming to write complex user guides. Users will have difficulty using your product if they're unclear and detailed.


User guides must be accurate and complete. For example, if your product can run on multiple operating systems, you'll need more than one version. A task on Mac may require a different approach on Windows or Linux.

Product updates

Most products (especially SaaS) are constantly updated. So, when writing the manuals, you'll need to revisit and revise as your product changes.

Technical language and abilities

Developers, programmers, program managers and technical writers have technical knowledge but may not be able to write in simple, easy-to-understand language.

Building your own user guide

Following this blog's advice, you can create informative user documentation and guides that will teach your users how to use your product effectively and save them time and frustration.

With the help of these user guide examples and AI-powered process documentation tools like Scribe, you easily automate the process and ensure that your user guides are consistent and up-to-date.

Sign up for Scribe today and start creating user documentation in seconds.

Ready to try Scribe?

Scribe automatically generates how-to guides and serves them to your team when they need them most. Save time, stay focused, help others.