Are you one of those people who read the installation instructions from top to bottom, watch setup videos on YouTube, and ask for a building strategy from a friend before assembling a bookshelf?
I think we humans like guides.
I think those who never read guides love them too -even though they cannot admit it…
I know they comfort themselves with their existence, with the idea of being able to check them in case of an emergency.
And this applies to software, too.
Some users love reading how-to guides before setting up their accounts, some only resort to them when they get an error code.
Regardless of their personal preferences, each and every user, one day or another, reads the user guides.
So, it’s important to have well-organized, understandable, and explanatory user guides waiting for users.
Let’s see how we can ensure that by analyzing real-life examples, shall we?
Here I present:
13 Successful User Guide Examples That Achieve the Unachievable
All of that sounds great, Ceren, but…
I’m in a rush and can’t really read a 4000-word article.
Can you keep the analysis short and tell me what a great user guide looks like?
📌 Be explanatory: Give examples and definitions, tell different use cases, provide pro tips & tricks… According to research, only 6% of users think they know 75% of what they should actually know.
📌 Incorporate visuals: screenshots, gifs, diagrams, illustrations… Choose what works best for that specific user guide and use that. Did you know that 65% of the whole population is visual learners?
📌 Structure your guide wisely: Don’t be afraid of using headings and creating a table of contents for your guides. The easier it is to navigate through a guide, the easier it is to turn back for a user for another information later on.
📌 Format, format, format: It’s hard to read long paragraphs with no color or spice. Use bolds, italics, emojis, bullet points, numbered lists, etc. A guide should be easy to skim through.
📌 Explore new ways to create your guides: A guide doesn’t need to be a 2000-word pdf document with a bunch of visuals sprinkled around. Record video guides, turn screenshots into presentations, and create interactive in-app guides or interactive demos. It’s 2023, think outside of the box 📦📦
Knowledge Base & Help Center Guides
Question: Where do we search for information outside the product the most?
❌ Wrong answer: Ancient scrolls guarded by wizards in hidden caves.
✅ The right answer: Knowledge bases and help centers! Because, you know, wizards hate documentation – too many spell-checks!
Here are three SaaS companies with impressive knowledge bases that offer the most organized and the most detailed guides, complete with well-structured organization and helpful visual aids:
⚠️ Not sure how to actually build and organize your knowledge base? Let’s take you here first.
#1 Jira Software
We call it user guide; Jira calls it product guide on its website.
What actually matters is not the name but how amazingly well-organized the information is in their guides, making it a breeze to follow and understand the whole user documentation 👇
At first glance, the page looks like an ordinary product manual or a getting started page with a table of contents on the left. It starts by defining the use cases of the product and the target audience and continues to explain some of the main product features in a very simple and casual manner.
⚠️ Yet, what seems like a usual table of contents is actually a list of user guides and other relevant articles in the knowledge base.
So, what might seem like a daunting and intricate knowledge base transforms into a neatly structured table of contents. You kick off with the “Getting Started” section, then smoothly move on to projects, boards, issues, and beyond.
Not very intimidating or eye-straining, is it?
Now, let’s take a closer look into one of their user guides and see whether they could maintain their exceptional organization within their guides, too 🔎🔎
✅ They start by explaining what a workflow is to prevent any confusion or misunderstanding.
✅ They provide the user with an example diagram/illustration.
✅ They utilize the same glossary in the guide as in the app itself. This way, users become familiar with the terms they will encounter in the product’s user interface.
✅ They utilize numbered lists and different fonts to improve readability.
✅ They also incorporate screenshots from the product’s UI to demonstrate the ‘what’ and ‘where,’ enhancing the practicality of the provided knowledge and offering users some context.
🔅 Informativeness: 10/10
🔅 Readability: 9/10
🔅 Structure and organization: 10/10
🔅 Visual Presentation: 8/10
I wouldn’t say no to a few more screenshots or font variety, but other than that, Jira kills it! No wonder why it’s so popular with product managers.
Another SaaS tool that creatively structures their user guides within an article instead of scattering them all around the knowledge base is AdRoll. They present their essential user guides in a playful and easily digestible article format, organized like a link library and a checklist so that users can quickly access the specific information they need by following the links.
Plus, they have engaging titles!
And here’s what their individual guides look like:
✅ They provide additional step-by-step instructions beside the general installation manual for the most popular platforms.
✅ They explain the processes with screenshots, sample codes, and gifs.
✅ Each step is numbered and written in a bold font, making it easy to separate them from the rest of the explanations and notes.
✅ Important notes and warnings are highlighted in red boxes, while suggestions are highlighted in green boxes like this👇
🔅 Informativeness: 8/10
🔅 Readability: 6/10
🔅 Structure and organization: 6/10
🔅 Visual Presentation: 9/10
In terms of organization, if the information were to flow from the easiest part to the hardest part or from the shorter sections to the longer ones, a marketer wouldn’t need to go through all the sample codes just to realize that all she has to do is click the ‘share’ button and send the code to the development team.
Due to the technical language, poor information structure, and the absence of a detailed table of contents, swiftly skimming through the article is difficult -even with the numbered steps…
Ruul prefers a totally unique structure for its user guides: drop-down FAQ boxes!
Not even sure if we could call them guides, actually 🤔
Their help center looks like a normal help center with the categorization and all the titles 👇
Yet, when you click on a guide, you encounter a screen like this:
Instead of writing a comprehensive guide on how to add a client in Ruul with a bunch of subheadings and steps, they organize the information in a question-answer format.
❌ H2: How to invite clients to Ruul?
✔️ Can I invite my clients to collaborate on Ruul?
Does it offer a better customer experience?
Depends on personal preferences and expectations, I believe, but looks totally cool to me!
Here are some of the answers to the questions:
✅ Both the questions and the answers are written in plain language.
✅ The structure is easy to skim through and navigate around.
✅ Answers the additional questions that might come into a user’s mind while completing a task.
⚠️ Not very detailed and explanatory.
⚠️ No lists, no steps, no visuals, no font variation…
🔅 Informativeness: 6/10
🔅 Readability: 7/10
🔅 Structure and organization: 8/10
🔅 Visual Presentation: 3/10
While it may not follow the typical detailed and highly explanatory structure of a standard user guide, I still find the content informative enough. And as the answers to the questions (guides) are quite short, it’s still easy to read, even in the absence of formatting.
However, the lack of visuals, such as explanatory gifs, diagrams, illustrations, or screenshots from the product UI, is a big problem.
Manuals with Lots and Lots of Visuals
Well, I already hear you questioning my categories.
Manuals with lots and lots of visuals?
Aren’t they also knowledge base guides like the ones before?
Is this a real category?
But when I say lots and lots of visuals, I mean LOTS AND LOTS OF VISUALS…
They deserve a separate category, trust me.
Almost everyone is acquainted with Notion’s Getting Started Checklist with all the emojis, I believe.
But have you checked their real user guides in the help center?
If not, here’s one:
How simple can you explain an analytics feature and its capabilities to someone? There are stats, graphs, user names, different variables…
Well, if you show everything you explain, even analytics can be simple, it seems!
✅ A simple language. Notion is pretty determined to teach how to utilize their analytics tool everyone with this user manual.
✅ Short paragraphs, bullet lists, bold fonts, text boxes, and real buttons and icons from the UI to help users recognize them based on the design. 💯💯
✅ Not just screenshots but gifs that show what’s where in the UI.
🔅 Informativeness: 10/10
🔅 Readability: 10/10
🔅 Structure and organization: 10/10
🔅 Visual Presentation: 10/10
If we were to choose one online documentation to rule them all, that would undoubtedly be a legendary Notion guide.
Customer satisfaction and an epic user experience –> guaranteed.
Who says in order to be detailed and explanatory, you must be wordy? Instead of long and detailed articles, Scribe offers presentation-like screenshot sequences.
✅ They promote their own tool by utilizing and showing what can be achieved with it.
✅ They make users feel accomplished as they move through different guides in one article, skipping slides and steps. Showing just one step at a time helps users feel less overwhelmed and confused, keeping the path to success clear and simple.
✅ In their screenshots, they highlight the important buttons/text boxes by keeping them at the center of attention with a red circle.
🔅 Informativeness: 7/10
🔅 Readability: 7/10
🔅 Structure and organization: 8/10
🔅 Visual Presentation: 10/10
While these presentation-style screenshot sequences excel at offering context to users, they could pose challenges in navigation, quick scanning, or revisiting specific information. The inability to view the entire content at once may hinder ease of use and efficient information retrieval.
If these examples don’t quite satisfy your visual appetite, if learning requires a crystal-clear vision of whats and hows, or if you’re craving an abundance of visual guidance, then brace yourself for the ultimate video guides!
Calendly has a devoted team explaining the UI and features in very brief but explanatory videos.
Most of these guides take 2-3 minutes to watch, and each of them walks the user through every step for completing a certain task on Calendly or changing an account setting.
You can listen to the voice in the background for the instructions while trying to complete your task at the same time in a separate window, or you can watch the video and then learn and memorize the steps before going back to the app.
Here’s another excerpt from another video guide:
Their video guides are explanatory, understandable, and easy to follow. They’re also short and easy to remember afterwards.
They do not only tell what they’re doing at that moment on the screen but also provide additional explanations about why they’re doing it and what else they could do with that feature.
Considering Loom’s reputation as a highly effective screen and video recording tool, we can rightfully expect their video guides to be nothing less than outstanding.
Here’s what they do right in their video guides:
✅ They do not only show the product interface but also presentations with key points, use cases, examples, etc., so that nothing important goes unnoticed or misheard.
✅ Their facial expressions are visible during the presentations, so it’s easier for some to focus.
✅ They do not only tell what can be done but also quickly click on everything and show.
✅ They provide unique insights in their video guides, showing real use cases like integrating Loom with their Google Calendar and sharing their favorite frames or crucial pre-recording settings. These practical details, absent in typical technical documentation, are essential for users to optimize Loom effectively.
Do I need to fangirl this team and their amazing video guides anymore?
I think you get it.
Just. Perfect. 🙌
Onboarding Courses & Tutorials
What’s better than a quick start guide pdf or a 3-minute video guide?
A comprehensive onboarding academy that perfectly blends them all, of course!
From short tutorials and step-by-step guide series on how to create presentations or websites on Canva to detailed courses on design skills and print advertising, Canva Design School might be one of the best online academies.
Let’s take a closer look into the most popular course: Canva for Beginners, which could be counted as an onboarding course, I believe.
✅ The material is divided into approx. 2-5 min long videos.
✅ As the video guides are short, they’re easy to complete, which motivates the user to continue.
✅ A green check mark appears near a completed video, creating a sense of accomplishment.
✅ Every video guide has a written transcript and a key learnings part summarizing the purpose of the guide.
✅ Every step of the guides is shown and explained in the videos, leaving no room for confusion.
Here’s an excerpt from the guides:
The check marks highlighting the progress the user made and the video transcripts are the best aspects of Canva’s onboarding course.
Well thought, 10/10.
Despite their best efforts to streamline the UI for a seamless product experience, Ignition acknowledges the inherent complexity of the job, potentially leading to user confusion with technical terms and details. To address this, they provide a comprehensive onboarding course.
Here is the course curriculum:
After enrolling in the course, this page welcomes us:
✅ We’re properly welcomed to the course and reminded about the learning goals and approximate course length.
✅ The course includes both written instructions and video guides.
✅ While the videos are longer than the ones we’ve examined before, the written instructions are shorter and more to the point with clear steps.
✅ Within their manuals, they provide pro tips and screenshots from the UI.
Here’s an example written guide:
I really loved how they did not create a video series for everything but used what works best for each and every onboarding task.
Sometimes video wins, and sometimes good old paper guides, right?
Plus, They give a certificate at the end 🎓🎓
Video guides are all cute and fine but still a little passive, some claim.
Seeing all those shiny tabs and buttons but not being able to click and explore at my sweet will?
I don’t know if that’s not a modern-day torture!
If videos are not enough experience for you, then you can create an account, start a trial or a subscription, or join a live demo session with a sales rep and then see for yourself, you might say.
But they take time. And money.
Both of which I simply don’t want to spend on every product I lay my eyes on!
So here I present a solution: Interactive demos.
An interactive demo is basically a presentation -or a simulation, we might say- that allows users to actively interact with a product’s UI and its features. Users can typically navigate through the demo, click on UI elements, try out some features, and experience the product’s functionality in a hands-on manner.
Let’s see how they work:
Clari, a revenue operations software, offers an interactive demo to its potential users to showcase their main features and product interface.
✅ They provide many stats to catch the attention of the user, just like a real sales rep would do in a live demo.
✅ They show an example dashboard with graphs and analytics.
✅ The language of the microcopy is friendly and smooth.
✅ They embrace a ‘jobs-to-be-done’ approach, actively identifying and addressing user pain points by asking pertinent questions.
As it’s a pre-designed demo, not every element on the UI is interactive, but it does provide valuable insights about the product, especially with the aid of example graphs and analytics.
However, the true highlight of this interactive demo is undeniably the microcopy!
From the stats to the pseudo questions and the checkpoint in the middle of the tour…
Not everything about this interactive demo is flawless, but when it comes to its microcopy, it’s an absolute standout.
Kudos to the writer!
Contractbook is another SaaS company embracing interactive demos beside their live demo sessions to win over their potential customers’ hearts.
Here’s an excerpt from their interactive demo:
✅ They prefer to create a color contrast with a vivid orange. Absolutely catches the eye and the attention 💥💥
✅ They use tooltips to explain the features and other elements on the UI, not for sales pitches like Clari did.
✅ They offer a comprehensive product tour by navigating through and exploring almost every subpage in the UI.
✅ There’s a progress bar that motivates users to continue and finish the demo.
The demo doesn’t flow smoothly; sometimes, it freezes or lags.
But other than that, with its detailed structure and explanatory microcopy, Contractbook offers a decent interactive demo overall.
If you decide to go with an interactive demo, make sure to choose an eye-catching color palette as well as a shiny, blinking pointer like them!
Interactive In-App Guides
After having glimpsed through this array of guides and many examples of user documentation, are you now prepared to meet the crème de la crème— the greenest apple on the tree, the shiniest star in the sky —the absolute pinnacle: 🥁🥁 interactive in-app guides 🥁🥁
Interactive demos are cool, but here are a couple of things to think about:
- Sometimes, they aren’t interactive enough to really grab the user’s attention.
- Especially if your product is complex with tons of features and pages, the demo might either get too long and boring or not cover everything.
You can’t really guess why someone’s checking out your product, right? So, offering the same demo to everyone might not hit the mark and could cost you a deal.
That’s why having personalized interactive elements inside your product, like guides made for specific uses, might just be the better way to go!
Here’s how smart businesses ensure contextual guidance with interactive in-app guides 👇
HubSpot embraces interactive guides over traditional written guides and documentation, too. Because, you know, while words might flutter away and paper crinkles into oblivion, actions? Ah, actions and muscle memory—they’re the evergreen companions.
At least that’s the gossip in the tech town!
Let’s take a closer look at the guide 👇
✅ At the top of the page, we can see which guide we’re on and switch to another guide.
✅ The microcopy is explanatory. There aren’t just the steps of the guide but additional information regarding the features, too.
✅ The tooltips highlight the important buttons/areas, keeping the focus on the right element.
✅ The guide waits for the user to complete an action and interact with the product’s UI before proceeding to the next tooltip.
This interactive guide is pretty neat. It throws in extra info, tips, and tricks about the features. A little more formatting -like bullet points, bolds, italics, etc.- could make it even more awesome.
Or cute cat gifs, just saying…
The welcome modal and the ‘Congrats, You Completed the Guide’ modal are a nice touch. Really motivates the user to complete another guide.
All in all, HubSpot demonstrates that user guides can be both interactive and informative.
#13 Grove HR
Grove HR goes the extra mile to onboard new users by providing a practical checklist to set up their accounts and familiarize them with the product.
What makes it stand out?
The checklist isn’t just a static set of instructions. Instead, it’s packed with interactive guides!
✅ The guide walks you through every step and actually shows you where to click and what to select.
✅ The unrelated areas on the page are dimmed, preventing any distraction.
✅ The color palette of the tooltips -and the checklist- is compatible with the product’s color palette, ensuring a professional look and great branding.
✅ There’s a progress bar showing how much of the guide is completed.
⚡ Digital adoption is already hard; going back and forth between the help centers and the product is a tiring and discouraging process for a new user. Grove HR solves this problem by gathering all their step-by-step instruction manuals, help articles, and checklists in one place: An in-app knowledge base.
I don’t leave the product for get-started guides, but now for other how-to guides and articles too?
That’s just A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
✅ There still is visual content, such as gifs and screenshots, in these articles, just like there would be in an ordinary knowledge base.
✅ For more complex technical documentation requiring further explanation, there are clickable links that forward users to additional documents.
✅ Numbered lists, bullet points, font variations… Everything is how it should be.
Whether it’s the easy accessibility of everything crucial from one place, the to-the-point nature of the guides, or the simplicity and practicality in design…
Grove HR has created a little haven for users where time is valued.
There’s nothing more to say, a solid 10/10!
👉 Here’s their success story for those wondering what they achieved with their product strategies.
Wanna Create Beautiful Interactive User Guides?
Then, meet UserGuiding!
UserGuiding is an interactive user onboarding and product adoption tool that allows businesses to create interactive -and personalized- user onboarding experiences with product walkthroughs, onboarding checklists, and interactive user guides.
Guides don’t have to be long, boring PDFs to be helpful or successful.
With UserGuiding, your guides could be cool AND effective at the same time, just like Ghostwriter.ai’s guides:
Okay, but it must be hard to do this.
All the transitions, interactions, visual elements, embedded links…
🚀 You can create guides from scratch within minutes without coding.
🚀 You can add gifs, videos, and links to your tooltips to jazz things up 🎷🎺
🚀 You can adjust the design (color, size, box style, backdrop shadow, etc.) however you like and keep your professional look consistent throughout your website and/ or product.
🚀 You trigger your guides from checklists and keep your checklists organized in the in-app knowledge base! There’s no mess in the UI; everything has a place!
🚀 Tooltip triggering method, timing, step skipping… Feel free to play around with the advanced settings and be in control 💪💪
🚀Plus, no need to worry about bugs or unexpected complications. Everything is previewed. Didn’t like a part? You can change it easily without arranging a meeting with your developers.
Ohhh, the freedom no-code tools offer 🤩🤩
There is a plethora of options available for creating user guides.
You can opt to write them, record them as videos, transform them into engaging presentations, organize them using visuals and gifs, house them within a knowledge base or a help center, or structure them as comprehensive courses.
Additionally, you have the choice to present them as interactive demos or set them up as interactive in-app elements to offer more context for your users.
The decision is really up to you.
Just don’t forget to keep them understandable and accessible.
Good luck 📚📚
Frequently Asked Questions
What should a user guide include?
A thorough user guide should include an introduction to the product, explaining its purpose and benefits, as well as the core features and their use cases. It should provide step-by-step instructions for initial setup and offer troubleshooting advice for common issues. The guide should also incorporate visuals like screenshots, gifs, or videos, along with interactive elements like clickable links or buttons, to enhance understanding and engagement.
How do you create interactive user guides?