User guides

User guides are a succinct set of instructions that are optimised to help the user with the action they need to complete.

By creating user guides that empower the user, an organisation can reduce the amount of customer service support required and associated costs.

With device ranges ever-increasing, organisations need to streamline their device guide process to better support the user and reduce costs. 

Our user guide creation involves designing, writing and artworking bespoke guides and boxes for handset ranges and broadband routers.

Quick start guides are a type of user guide that help users to get set up quickly and easily without external assistance. User guides cover all other scenarios that a user may require assistance with, or information for. Descriptions in guides must be clear and the information presented simply, often supplemented with icons, imagery and other visual aids. Above all, they must be kept up to date. 

A physical user guide is popular, because users often opt to use something that doesn’t require them to stare at a screen or hold a device; so having a guide booklet open is still part of the user experience despite digital aids.

Digital guides and video work is essential to supplement and support those physical guides and ensure that there are a multitude of options available to the user. Managing purchases, devices or subscriptions is something that users will most likely expect to do online, however, when looking for help to a common problem they may find it easier to look in a contents page of a user guide.

Our user guide process

Step 1: Definition

As with every project, we first define objectives and the key metrics, discuss the challenges and what success looks like. Ideally the success metrics should be based on existing benchmarks such as NPS score, customer service calls or engineer call outs. 

One of the most important activities within the definition stage is to define the target audience that will be using the guide. We then outline the potential scenarios

the guide exists to support. In some cases, different variations of the guide may be required. Scenarios could include variations in the combination of products and services a customer has purchased, new product upgrades or, as we’ve seen with internet providers, a guide to help customers as they move home.

The type of guide support and any additional digital implementation should be discussed within this definition stage. 

Many of the guide projects we work on have some form of existing guides or product set up information. We spend time reviewing how the current process works and looking at ways to improve it. This includes familiarising ourselves with the product and setting up processes.

Once we have a good understanding of the product and any existing information, we conduct research. The level of research differs from project to project, but as a minimum we would cover the following activities: stakeholder interviews, competitor review, customer observations and a survey to collect quantitative feedback. Each of these activities serves a specific purpose that can help to uncover insight into challenges and opportunities for improving the customer experience with the user guide. Once research has been completed, we supply the client with a report that details the findings from the activities and recommendations or considerations for the guide. 

  • Define the objectives
  • Benchmark the success metrics 
  • Define the target audience
  • Outline the possible scenarios 
  • Review existing materials 
  • Research the target audience

Step 2: Solution 

We work in close collaboration with our clients to produce design solutions that support customers and deliver results for the business. The first step is to outline the guide structure. 

Relevant information must be communicated clearly and at the right time. To set expectations, we always start by outlining the equipment that a customer will need for each step, before outlining the steps a customer must take to complete the task. This can be a bulleted list, but it must include sufficient details. Usually our user guides are printed, however, if you’re creating guides in other formats, such as video or in-app, we consider how the way we present content might need to change.

Next step is wireframing, where we build out the guide structure into a basic visual map, outlining the flow of content and considering supporting elements that need to be included. The wireframes will ultimately form the basis of the final guide layout so it’s important to spend time working on different options and, if possible, testing with customers.

Once we’re happy with the wireframes, we create visual concepts for how the final design could look. This includes use of photography, icon styles, colours and any other relevant supporting elements. Generally we produce 2-3 concepts and review with the client. In most cases, our concepts are informed by existing brand guidelines. As user guides are a crucial

part of the customer journey, it’s key that they make sense and fit cohesively with any other communications or brand assets.

The final step, before finalising the guide structure, is testing the designs. While not always possible, we aim for at least one round of user testing to assess the experience of the guide. This may result in recommendations for improvements. 

  • Outline a basic guide structure
  • Build wireframes 
  • Create visual design concepts
  • User testing 
  • Finalised guide structure

Step 3: Implementation

Working closely with the client teams to plan and execute implementation in an efficient, cost-effective manner, we hand over the designs to our artworking team for final checks. 

Depending on the format of the guide the artwork process may vary – print files are different to assets for a website. In all cases, the artworking stageincludes setting up processes to ensure quality and consistency throughout. This is the last chance to check everything is correct, especially with printed guides where you can’t make changes once they’ve been produced!

Whether print or digital, we provide support throughout the production process. From quality checks to advising on the type of paper or using sustainable inks – choices made in production are treated with the same level of consideration and quality as the information in the guides themselves.

  • Artworking checks
  • Production support

Step 4: Optimisation 

Any solution is only as valuable as the results it delivers for our client; we work with client teams to establish appropriate measurements to track the impact of our outputs. This could include tracking NPS scores or the number of customer service calls.

Following launch, we work with our client to conduct research often in the form of surveys and observations which help track the success of our design solutions. The feedback is used to inform ongoing improvements and helps us monitor what works and what doesn’t for our client’s customers.

From inventory control to software updates, the quick start guide process doesn’t end when the first version of the guide is finalised. In our experience, guides need to be regularly monitored and updated – often due to technical improvements or a new version of the product being launched.

  • User testing or research 
  • Guide management


March 7, 2017

Hey user guides, where have you been?

I remember the disappearance of user guides. It was like one of those alt-reality sci-fi stories.

May 12, 2020

10 tips for creating quick start guides

Quick start guides differ from user guides or manuals because they exist to help customers set up and start using their new products or services as quickly as[...]

June 3, 2020

How is a quick start guide different to an instruction manual?

A quick start guide (QSG) is a short process document that enables the user to get their new product up and running as quickly as possible.