Why User Manuals Are Dead To The World

Today we were asked to provide our user manuals in a PDF or Word document. You may think that this is a reasonable enough request but after nine years of building software we've figured out a thing or two about user manuals: No one reads them. Ever.


When we look back over the years we've made several attempts to create comprehensive training materials or user guides. We've had everything. Simple how-to guides, extensive word/pdf documentation, training videos, entirely hand built custom websites... everything. At one point we even tried assigning a dedicated person to only this task.


The problem is, in all of that time I can probably count a handful of people that have actually used these materials. This works out to very little benefit to our customers compared to the hours spent compiling and updating Word documents that in the end become quickly outdated.


Little Benefit + Hours of Work = Bad Idea


The fact is when people need to know how to do something they always follow the same pattern.

  1. They ask someone. It's always easier to ask your co-worked rather than search for it. Sometimes this works, sometimes it leads to the wrong answer, but we're human and we like to ask someone human. This is the same reason I've pinned 'Search Google' above my father's computer and the same reason why he ignores it. It's just easier to call.
  2. They search for it. This usually involves Google or perhaps the in-built training system but is exactly where we want people to find the right answer. If rewarded enough times with the right answer, this will become the first place people will look.

So at Masterkey we now invest our time in making sure the right answers are found in when you search. We do provide great in-person training, but after that it comes down to search. A tremendous amount of time and effort was spent finding the right help tool and writing the articles themselves so that's where people should look. 


If you are ever looking for help with Masterkey use the Masterkey Helpdesk. That's where we are and have everything you need to know about Masterkey. If you're writing your own user manuals, stop now before it's too late and try out uservoice, getsatisfaction or zendesk!

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