Have you ever tried onboarding a new employee without proper training guides and documentation? It can be a needlessly long process even when your company operations are relatively simple, and it becomes a veritable nightmare when you run a complex business with various processes to learn.
Now, imagine you have all these processes documented with detailed how-to guides full of visual examples for each step. Doesn’t that sound much better?
Onboarding is just one of many situations in which excellent quality documentation can help a company – other scenarios include implementing new tools, optimizing processes etc. Read on to find out how to create a how-to guide in just eight easy steps, thanks to our powerful MagicHow platform.
Also, if you want to visualize what we write about in the article, you can create a free MagicHow Starter account right now and test things out!
How to create a how-to guide using MagicHow
Here are the eight steps you need to take to create an excellent how-to guide using our powerful MagicHow tool.
Identify your objectives and audience
Before you do anything else, you need to know two things:
- What you want to achieve with your guide – Every document exists for a reason. Your objectives for the guide’s creation are essential and will significantly impact the content.
- What its target audience will be – This is important because the audience determines the language and style of the document and its content. You should try to look at this document from the perspective of its future readers, and the better you understand it, the more relevant and practical your how-to guide will be.
Create an outline
The next logical step is creating a step-by-step outline for your how-to guide. Start with an overview – a general summary of what you want to include. Define the guide's aim and the actions you want to explain on its pages – in chronological order – based on your research and objectives.
Finally, mention the tools and resources readers need to follow the document. Add a glossary and an FAQ (frequently asked questions) section users can consult in case of any problems or doubts.
Choose your process documentation software
Creating guides manually is needlessly tedious and time-consuming. Investing in the right tools can shorten this process considerably and make things much easier. For example, our MagicHow process documentation tool allows you to automate the creation of step-by-step how-to tutorials, instructions, guides, manuals and other types of documentation.
The documents created by our tool are both stylish and informative. The best thing, however, is that they are effortless to make – you can create them in just a few minutes without any prior knowledge or experience. It’s possible thanks to MagicHow’s robust feature set:
- AI-powered process documentation tool – Our service uses top-of-the-line technology to automate process documentation by making screenshots and splitting them into logical steps while you record a process.
- Blurring sensitive information – MagicHow blurs information users shouldn’t see. You don’t have to worry that screenshots in manuals will reveal private data.
- Screenshots annotation and editing – You can freely annotate and edit the created files to customize and improve them in various ways.
- Desktop application and browser extensions – Approach process documentation however you like, with a dedicated desktop app or an extension for popular browsers.
- Easy sharing – MagicHow allows you to share your manuals via a link, as PDF files or embedded on the website.
- Process documentation – Provide guidance and instruction to your teams through well-written how-to guides and manuals.
- Onboarding – Offer clear, easy-to-understand, detailed instructions to new employees to help them start their careers in your company.
- Implementing tools – Create visual guides to boost adoption rates of new tools and technologies in the organization.
- Answering FAQs – Allow team members to quickly share knowledge through well-written FAQs and knowledge bases with built-in guides.
- Creating a knowledge base – Create a detailed knowledge base full of great visual aids in record time, and then improve it easily.
Install the software
As we previously mentioned, MagicHow has two versions. Both of them offer an intuitive interface and provide the same high-quality results. What are they, and how do they differ?
MagicHow has a dedicated desktop application, which is a great option for laptops and PCs. It offers excellent performance and user experience and is very easy to install. You don’t need high-grade computer knowledge and expertise – if you’ve ever installed a PC program, you’ll feel right at home.
If you don’t want to or can’t install new software on your device of choice (a PC, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone), you can opt for a browser version. We offer extensions compatible with the most popular browsers on the market – namely Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari. The installation is literally as easy as pressing a button.
Perform the process and record it
Now, it’s time to perform the process you want to document. Simply press a button to enable recording and follow the usual steps as if you were carrying out the action in normal circumstances. MagicHow will run in the background, record what you do, split the process into logical steps and make screenshots to visualize them.
You can stop recording any time and customize the steps our software automatically made based on the overview you created earlier.
Customize your how-to guide
MagicHow allows you to customize the guides it generates in various ways. For example, you can:
- Add steps’ titles and descriptions – You can add hand-crafted titles and descriptions to steps generated by our tool.
- Blur sensitive data – MagicHow blurs data you don’t want users to see, such as personal information, passwords etc.
- Crop a picture – The tool allows you to crop a picture if you want readers to focus on a specific section.
- Add logos – You can also add brand logos to your screenshots.
- Change style – MagicHow allows you to customize the colors and fonts used in your manuals.
- Modify the slides – Merge or remove slides if you decide your guide should be more concise.
Tips for making excellent how-to guides
Even the best AI-enhanced software won’t do all the work for you. A human touch will help you improve your documentation. Some tips and things to remember:
- Know what you want to write – Various types of guides and manuals exist for different reasons and have other goals; know yours.
- Test the steps – Test the steps thoroughly before you finish and publish your guide to ensure everything works as shown.
- Use actionable verbs – Actionable verbs (or dynamic or action verbs) describe actions. They provide instant information to the reader and make the content easier to understand.
- Write consistently – Use a consistent style throughout the entire guide to avoid confusion.
- Take time to proofread – Errors and typos make a bad impression on readers, so eradicate them before sharing your guides.
- Make the document easy to skim – Users should be able to search the guide quickly without too much effort and go into details only when they need to.
- Ensure you base the guide on easy-to-understand instructions – The steps outlined in your guide should be concise and as simple as possible.
- Use examples and visuals – Explain why specific steps are essential, and show examples and visual aids to help users understand it better.
- Empathy is vital – Consider the reader’s perspective when writing, empathize with their problems and remember that the learning process can be challenging. Empathy can be a powerful tool.
- Keep it short and simple – Don’t overcomplicate your guides. Strive for short content. You can always make it longer if the need arises.
You can also check out our article on process documentation best practices – it’ll provide some additional valuable pointers.
Share your how-to guide
When your guide is ready, you should share it with readers. MagicHow provides several options in this regard:
- Provide a link – Share your guide via a link with configurable access settings, similar to Google Docs.
- Exporting the manual in PDF format – It’s a popular file format for detailed, visually rich guides and manuals. You can then share the file via email and other channels.
- Copying a guide as HTML or Markdown – MagicHow also allows you to copy your guide in HTML or Markdown to post it on third-party websites.
- Embedding a guide in company tools – You can share your manual via Notion, Confluence, Zendesk, Webflow and other tools (or even in a blog post).
Get feedback on it and update if needed
The final step is iteration. Remember that how-to guides aren’t – and shouldn’t be – set in stone. You create these documents for people and to serve specific purposes, and you should constantly update and improve them based on the feedback you get, even after the original publication.
Why is creating how-to guides important?
Step-by-step guides are essential because they help users to understand and perform a particular task or process. A well-written how-to guide can:
- Save time and money
- Reduce the number of errors
- Improve employee/customer experience and, therefore, satisfaction
It’s an essential tool for optimizing onboarding and collaboration within the company.
The best how-to guides offer accurate, clear and concise instructions. They follow a logical sequence of steps. You should also use appropriate language and visuals to suit the audience and the guide's purpose.
How-to guides can be a great resource in various industries and business circumstances – from onboarding to new technology implementation. Moreover, their creation is relatively straightforward – though your choice of a software tool will significantly impact the process.
If you choose our MagicHow process documentation and SOP software, you can make a detailed document in under 15 minutes, including the time necessary for customization, branding etc. Our AI-enhanced service will do a lot of the work for you, and you can simply flesh it out and add all the details you want. It’ll help you standardize processes and optimize performance – while saving tremendous amounts of time (and money!).
Want to try MagicHow out? Create a free account to see all of our features in action!