User Onboarding

Creating Step-by-step Software Guides That People Love - The Advanced Guide

    #1 product adoption platform. Quick setup, lasting engagement.
    Start for free >
    See how UserGuiding can help you level up your product experience.
    Talk to an expert >
    #1 product adoption platform. Quick setup, lasting engagement.
    Join 20k+ product people >
    Ready to Boost
    Product Adoption?
    Meet With Our
    Onboarding Experts

    Home / User Onboarding / Creating Step-by-step Software Guides That People Love - The Advanced Guide


    • Step-by-step guides are used for employee/user onboarding, technical support, internal knowledge sharing for the business processes, and product documentation.
    • Step-by-step guides are used for employee/user onboarding, technical support, internal knowledge sharing for the business processes, and product documentation.
    • A well-structured guide can save time and money, prevent human errors, delight users, and boost user engagement scores besides feature adoption scores.
    • In order to prepare a guide that will attract everyone's attention, there are basically 3 things you need to pay attention to: language use, visuals, and guide structure
    • If you want to save time or create more engaging guides, there are different tools you can use, such as video and screen-recording tools and no-code interactive onboarding tools.

    I know some people think reading detailed instruction manuals is even less exciting than watching paint dry.

    But I personally ADORE manuals and how-to guides.

    And I know I'm not the only one 👀

    Well, sure, you could spend days and weeks trying to figure out how to use Photoshop on your own, but why would you do that to yourself when there are all those pretty and easy-to-understand guides for each and every feature of the product?

    But as you're already here, I believe you're not the one I should try and convince that guides are actually nice. 

    So, let's focus on our target audience and discuss the finesses of creating step-by-step guides everyone would love -even the most ardent guide-haters!

    What Is a Step-by-step Guide?

    A step-by-step guide is basically a set of instructions that explains to the reader how to complete a certain task/action with easy-to-follow instructions and subtasks. These guides can be written documents, short videos & tutorials, or interactive user manuals prepared by 3rd party user manual creation software products. Ideally, a step-by-step guide features simple steps, simple language, visual content, and other elements that can help elevate the user onboarding experiences of not only users in need but every real user a product might have.

    Here are some use cases for step-by-step guides👇

    1. Employee onboarding
    2. Internal business processes
    3. Product manuals
    4. Technical support
    5. User onboarding

    ➡️ Employee Onboarding

    Be a total newbie or an experienced professional, a new position in a new company can be highly frustrating. New team, new procedure, new software, new responsibilities... 

    In order to ensure a smooth onboarding and orientation process for the new hires, companies make sure they provide all the necessary guides and work documentation so that the new employees won't have to nudge their teammates to learn how to update a client's account 📒

    ⚠️ According to research, an average employee spends more than 5 hours a week waiting for information/ further explanation from other teammates due to the lack of enough documentation in the knowledge base.

    ➡️ Internal Business Processes

    A well-organized knowledge base is not only important for onboarding new hires but also for maintaining a system and consistency within the company even after someone leaves or retires. 

    According to a study, in 42% of cases, the institutional knowledge that people assume is common knowledge is actually unique to individuals who have worked in the company for a certain period.

    So when they're gone, the knowledge is also gone, along with a big deal of money.

    Who would think a sales rep, customer success manager, or inbound marketer is like a Michelin-starred chef with their secret recipes? 

    ➡️ Product Manuals 

    Product manuals are among the most frequently used types of user guides. These manuals provide a wide range of information on how to set up a certain product, troubleshoot in case something goes wrong, etc. 

    Contrary to popular belief, product manuals are crucial not only for technological devices, such as cameras or televisions but also for SaaS products and software.

    In the SaaS world, product manuals may include getting-started guides, UI description/ explanations, as well as how-to guides for various features, and detailed instructions related to 3rd party integrations. 

    ➡️ Technical Support 🛠️

    Zendesk's latest CX report says that 72% of customers want immediate service -which can be extremely hard unless companies alleviate some of the workload of customer service/ customer support teams.

    Step-by-step guides can help customers solve the primary and most common problems they face easily on their own, or better; they can prevent some of these problems from occurring in the first place!

    ➡️ User Onboarding 

    User education is a continuous process that starts with user onboarding.

    If you want your potential customers to get the most out of your product in the shortest time possible, have their "Aha!" moment, and convert into actual customers, you must make sure that they have access to all the necessary information to have a smooth and easy start with your product. 

    For that, you can create interactive user guides, step-by-step tutorials, and how-to guides. 

    Why use step-by-step guides?

    Still not convinced about the effectiveness of step-by-step guides?

    Here's what you can achieve by using them:

    ✅ Save time -Ensure accessibility of important information in a matter of minutes 

    ✅ Prevent knowledge loss 

    ✅ Save money with a better knowledge-sharing system💰💰

    ✅ Improve collaboration and team harmony -Make sure everyone's on the same page

    ✅ Improve user onboarding 

    ✅ Improve overall customer experience and customer satisfaction 

    Take some of the workloads from the customer service/support teams -They can now focus on more complex issues!

    ✅ Prevent almost half of the human errors in organizations -a.k.a. failure to follow the proper procedures. 

    Tips for Creating Easy-to-Digest Guides

    #1 Create a reader profile for your guide

    Start by asking yourself one question: who is reading this and why?

    Do not under or over-explain anything.

    People shouldn't feel a need to go and check other sources for further information after reading your guide, nor should they feel drowned in unnecessary explanations and definitions. 

    Know your audience and form your guide according to their knowledge level. 

    #2 Keep it short and skimmable

    Not every piece of information in a guide is crucial to everyone. 

    People would want to skip the parts they already know or the steps they've already completed by themselves.

    Thus, it's important to highlight important words, list the actual steps separately and provide further explanations about each step in the following paragraphs.

    #3 Make sure your guide has a solid and clear structure

    Often, when you ask a language learner how they became proficient in a language, they may not be able to provide a clear explanation.

    They simply have an intuitive grasp of it!

    Similarly, when creating product features and guides, the IT team may inadvertently skip over steps that seem obvious to them, but not to the end user.

    This is why it's important to use numbered lists, bullet points, and screenshots to ensure that all necessary steps are included and clearly explained. 

    #4 Add a table of contents

    Okay, so far, you've analyzed the future reader of your guide, optimized the content and the language in the guide, and checked the structure to make sure everything crucial is included.

    Now it's time to give your headings and subheadings the attention they deserve by using a table of contents.

    Trust me, your readers will thank you 🙏🏼

    #5 DO NOT sacrifice necessary visuals just to save space!

    Screenshots, gifs, flow charts, illustrations...

    Reading a 4 full-page technical documentation is scarier than a 7-page user manual with pictures. 

    It might seem like a lot from the get-go but if you can prove from the intro of your guide that the content will be easy to read and understand, you have nothing to fear.

    Now, let's talk a bit about...

    Creating Guides for Co-workers and Teammates

    To ensure productivity, accuracy, and consistency, we repose hope in guides, one more time.

    The sales team can use a guide to learn how to utilize the company's CRM system effectively, and the marketing team can create a guide to demonstrate how to create social media graphics using a specific tool. 

    Moreover, these guides are not limited to internal use within specific teams; other teams can also benefit from them.

    For instance, a comprehensive how-to guide on a new feature developed by the product team can offer essential information to sales representatives or marketers as well.


    Here are different methods to create guides for your co-workers👇

    1- Sending videos

    There are times showing how to perform a task is ten times easier than explaining it in words. 

    But then again, we're in the age of remote work. Not all of us meet in physical offices and workplaces where we can just provide a short demonstration. 

    Here's where screen sharing and video recording tools like Loom step in!

    loom step by step guide

    Can't you explain how to integrate a particular tool with your product in words? Don't you have time to arrange a meeting and show how to respond to customer inquiries? 

    Simply record your screen and demonstrate the required steps while giving clear and concise instructions. You can then share the video with your team and keep it in your archives to access when needed in the future.

    loom step bu step software guide

    Sending step-by-step instructions

    If you need to explain a relatively more complex and/or long process that requires additional editing, such as headers, tips, alerts, etc., video recordings could be unproductive for you. 

    Or, depending on the task and tool you explain, you might not want to share all the information that appears on your screen and prefer to redact some parts, which would be hard to do with some tools. 

    In such cases, you can go with Scribe!

    scribe step by step software guide

    Scribe is a step-by-step guide creation tool that works with a Chrome extension.

    Once you've installed the extension, all you need to do is to start recording and go through each step a task requires. When you click the "complete recording" button, the tool will automatically create a guide with screenshots, cursor clicks, and links. 

    Later on, you can add headers, further explanations, and tips. 

    P.S. The crop, annotate and redact features are available only for Pro and Enterprise customers. 

    scribe step by step guide example
    Here's an example guide created with Scribe

    Creating Step-by-step Guides for Your Software

    Among all the sales agents, marketing agents, support agents, etc., I believe customer success agents have the most comprehensive knowledge about customers' inner worlds and feelings. 

    👉 And 37% of them say when a customer cannot complete a specific task by themselves with a product, she gets noticeably angry, frustrated, or stressed. 

    Thus, it's essential to provide customers with a well-organized resource center with lots of educational content and onboarding material if you want to delight users and increase product/ feature adoption.

    Here are a few methods to ensure that:

    Provide interactive and personalized experiences without coding

    Guides with good structures are cool, but most of the time, as a user, it's my responsibility to go and find them among all the others that are not really crucial to me. 

    And it means extra effort. 

    Would it be so hard for companies to just predict my needs as a customer and just throw me the related guides and tutorials? 


    With 3rd party tools, you can create personalized and amazing experiences even without coding.

    You wonder how? With UserGuiding, for example!

    UserGuiding is a tool that helps companies create personalized tutorials and interactive step-by-step guides just in a few clicks. 

    step by step software guide userguiding
    • With the user segmentation feature, you can decide who sees which onboarding content and ensure a more engaging experience for all of your users. 
    • By incorporating in-app resource centers, you can centralize all your guides and tutorials, allowing your customers to focus solely on using your software instead of wasting their time searching for guides on different pages like support or help pages. Users do not like interrupted actions and often tend not to complete them. It's important to prevent unnecessary distractions and keep them engaged within the tool as much as possible. 
    grove hr userguiding step by step guide
    Here's an example in-app resource center created with UserGuiding!

    Create interactive product tours with open-source libraries

    What if no-code third-party tools are outside of your budget? Are you gonna put onboarding flows, product tours, and interactive guides on a dusty shelf until you arrange your finances?

    Of course not!

    We're lucky onboarding gods created free, open-source software!

    With some customization, optimization, and of course, coding, you can still have onboarding flows for both your users and employees. 

    Here are some of the most popular libraries and open-source onboarding software on GitHub:

    Create step-by-step guides and instructions

    The most fundamental version of a step-by-step guide is a guide prepared with screenshots of each step.

    You don't have to explain much or go for long descriptions all the time. Just go and highlight the important buttons and text boxes!

    You remember Scribe

    You can also use it to create how-to guides and step-by-step explanations for your users! 

    Once you go through each step to complete a task within your product while the Scribe extension records your screen, you can stop recording, and the tool will create your guide instantly. 

    Wrapping Up...

    You want to ensure your new hires adapt to the work environment and processes quickly or prevent knowledge loss within your organization? 

    Maybe you need a new strategy to improve user education and boost feature adoption.

    Somehow or other well-structured, engaging, and interactive guides could really help you achieve your goals! 

    Go and check some of the platforms mentioned in the article and start creating guides that everyone will love. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I make a quick guide?

    First, you need to identify your audience and the critical information they need in order to complete a certain task. Then, you should logically organize your content and create a list of steps. You must make sure that the steps are clear and easy to follow. Finally, you should add visuals, graphs, screenshots, or illustrations to enhance understanding.

    How do you make a step-by-step video?

    The easiest and fastest way to make a step-by-step video is to use screen recording software or a video editing tool. First, make an outline for yourself that contains the steps you want to demonstrate in the guide and, optionally, a speech script that consists of the tips/warnings you want to share. Afterwards, record your screen as you go through each step. You can later make some edits to the video footage, such as adding titles and captions.

    Is there a way to create interactive content, without coding?

    YES! No-code tools, such as UserGuiding, Stonly, and Pendo, enable users to create interactive guides, product walkthroughs, tooltips, onboarding checklists, etc. These platforms offer a range of templates and customization options to create engaging and interactive guides and product tours.

    Join 1000+ teams
    driving product success at speed

    14-day free trial, no coding needed, 30-day