How to Write User Guides for a Diverse User Base: Match all Needs & Skill Levels

Rachel Melegrito
February 1, 2023
September 19, 2023
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Learn effective tips for creating user guides that effectively communicate with a diverse user base, especially those with varying levels of technical proficiency.
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User guides are an excellent tool for helping users navigate and utilize new products or software. When creating a user guide, you want to ensure that it is informative and easily understood by everyone.

However, creating a user guide that can effectively serve a diverse user base with different levels of technical proficiency can be challenging. Studies showed that many organizations need help crafting user guides that engage their target audience.

A well-crafted user guide must be accessible and valuable to all your users, irrespective of their technical proficiency. And this is important because a user guide can be the difference between an excellent customer experience and a terrible one.

This article will discuss strategies and tools for creating user guides that are all-encompassing and effective for users of all technical abilities.

By following the guidelines in this article, companies can ensure that their user guides are helpful for all users, regardless of their technical background.

Why it's important to tailor your user guides to different audiences

Inclusivity: A well-written user guide ensures that all users, irrespective of their technical proficiency, can understand and use the product or service, promoting inclusivity and accessibility

Clear instructions: User guides provide clear instructions and guidelines on how to use a product or service, which helps users with varying levels of technical proficiency to understand the features and functionality of the product. It can prevent confusion and frustration for users who may not be familiar with the technology.

Improved user experience: By providing user guides tailored to a diverse user base, users are more likely to have a positive experience with the product or service. And this can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Better support: Having user guides available for users with varying levels of technical proficiency can also improve support for the product or service. Users can refer to the manual for troubleshooting and problem-solving, which can reduce the need for help from customer service.

Increased adoption: When you make your user guides accessible to a diverse user base, there are chances of increased product or service adoption. Users are more likely to use and recommend a product or service if they can understand and use it easily.

Challenges of writing user guides for a diverse user base

According to Shawn Plummer, CEO, The Annuity Expert,

"Writing user guides for a diverse user base can be challenging because it requires balancing technical detail with simplicity. Also, using appropriate language and terminology, organizing the guide effectively."

Writing user guides for a user base with varying levels of technical proficiency can present several challenges. Some of them include the following:

Determining how much detail to include

If the guide is too technical, it may be difficult for non-technical users to understand. And it may not provide enough information for more advanced users if it is not technical enough.

Choosing the right language & terminology

Technical terms and jargon can confuse non-technical users, so using clear and simple language is essential. At the same time, it is also important to provide enough information so that advanced users can understand the guide.

Creating a guide that's organized & easy to navigate for users of all levels

It might be challenging to create a user guide that is structured in a way that makes it easy for users to find the information they need, whether a beginner or an expert.

Creating appropriate user guides for different audiences: a step-by-step guide

1. Understanding your user base

When writing user guides for a product, it's essential to understand your user base's varying levels of technical proficiency. It means you have to deeply understand your users so that you can write user guides that are appropriate for their needs.

Stephan Baldwin, Founder, Assisted Living, adds,

"For example, if your user base includes both novice and advanced users, you'll want to make sure that you write your user guides in a way that is easy for beginners to understand while also providing more detailed information for advanced users."

It's also essential to consider the different ways that users may access and read the guide. For example, some users may prefer a printable PDF. In contrast, others may select an online version they can access on their mobile devices. It is essential to ensure that the guide is formatted correctly and readable on different devices.

2. Simplifying technical jargon

When creating user guides or instructions for your product or service, it can be tempting to use technical jargon or industry-specific language that all users may not easily understand.

To simplify technical jargon when writing user guides, it is crucial first to identify the level of technical understanding of the intended audience. You can do this through user research, surveys, or focus groups. 

Once you identify the audience, you can tailor the language and terminology to their level of understanding.

One effective technique for simplifying technical jargon is to use layperson's terms or everyday language to explain technical concepts.

📌 Related Resource: 6 Technical Writing Chrome Extensions

For example, instead of using the technical term "bandwidth," a user guide could describe it as "the amount of data that can be transmitted at one time." It makes the concept easier for users who may need to become more familiar with technical terminology.

Another technique is to use visual aids such as diagrams, flowcharts, or images to explain technical concepts. These visual aids can help users understand complex ideas and processes more efficiently.

Additionally, it is vital to use a consistent writing style throughout the user guide and to break down instructions into smaller, manageable steps. That makes it easier for users to follow and understand the instructions.

3. Organizing & formatting the user guide

When making your guide accessible to as many users as possible, it's crucial to organize and format it clearly and easily.

One way to do this is to use headings and subheadings to break the guide into sections. It makes it easy for users to find the information they need quickly and easily.

It's also helpful to include images and videos to supplement the text. That can make it easier for users to understand how to complete a task or concept. Some of your users may also prefer to consume information through audio, so you must also have that in mind.

In addition, providing examples and step-by-step instructions can be very helpful in making the guide easy to follow.

It's also important to consider the guide's layout, using whitespace and bullet points to make the information easy to read.

You should also consider the format of the guide. For example, a video tutorial may be more helpful for beginner users, while advanced users may prefer a more detailed written guide.

Tools like Scribe handle the formatting, writing and screenshotting for you.

‎Here's an example of a perfectly formatted and annotated Scribe — made in seconds.

As the guide above outlines, Scribe turns any process into a step-by-step user guide. All you have to do is turn on the extension or desktop app and run through your process. Cut your documentation time in half while creating user guides that are:

  • Written and annotated.
  • Easy to universally edit, store and share.
  • Exportable or embeddable in any platform.

And with Scribe Pages, you can combine Scribes with images, video and more to create longer guides, templates or other external-facing documentation.


4. Testing & revising the user guide

The final step in creating your all-encompassing user guide is to test it with a diverse group of users.

You can do this by giving the guide to a group of individuals with different levels of technical proficiency and asking them to try to complete a task using the guide. After the testing is complete, the feedback should be collected and used to revise the manual.

According to Carter Seuthe, Author, Credit Summit,

"Testing and revising the user guide is crucial in ensuring that the instructions are clear and easy to understand for all users, regardless of their technical proficiency. It allows for identifying and correcting any ambiguities or inaccuracies, which can greatly enhance the user experience and increase the adoption of the product or service. Without testing and revising, user guides can become ineffective and hinder the user's ability to utilize the product or service."

For example, if a beginner user needs help to understand a specific guide section, you should simplify the language used in that section. If an advanced user finds an area too simplistic, it'll help to provide more detailed information.

🆓 Related Resource: Free Quick Reference Guide Template


Writing user guides for a diverse user base can be a challenging task. However, by following the guidelines listed above, it is possible to create user guides that are both easy to understand and efficient for all users.

By putting the audience and their level of technical proficiency into perspective, you will be well-equipped to create a user guide that will resonate with all your users and meet their needs.

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