Op-Ed: Why I like to write installation/user guides myself

You know, end of the project, someone has to write the installation and user guide.

Usually not the most popular task to be around. I happily volunteer to write it, at least a first draft.

There are a few reasons for it.

– Final check
– Find missing parts and bugs
– Identify complicated things

Final check

Nothing is more eye-opening about the solution to be released than going through it while writing the guide. Noting all the steps, and taking all the screenshots let’s me see the solution one more time in all details.

Usually, my “To Clean” list becomes as long as the guide itself. Especially UI issues became very apparent.

Find missing parts and bugs

While doing the user guide, I need to install and use the solution one more time start to finish. That is often the time I find quite a lot of smaller bugs and missing parts. Sometimes it’s just a missing input validation, sometimes a whole missing feature.

Identify (over) complicated things

Writing the guide is a great way to identify overcomplex things. When I need to explain something and I find the explanation complex to write, it’s probably too complex to use.

As a rule of thumb, I try to have every feature explained in less than a Word page. Everything longer must be either simplified or broken down into smaller steps.

Are you writing guides yourself? What is your experience?

Disclaimer: I’m by far not a professional writer, I’m happy to take any help if it’s around.