What Is Technical Reference and Software User Guide?

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The best and most popular software will not be profitable if potential users do not know how to use it correctly. Any software that goes into production should have special technical documents with information on how to use it and what for. Such documents are technical references and a user guide.

Usually, a user guide and technical reference are created by a technical specialist who is experienced in writing such materials and who can look at the product as a regular user does (for whom such a product was developed).

What Should a User Guide Consist of?

As a rule, such a product includes:

  1. Name and description of all copyrights;
  2. A small preface that describes the recommendations for using the software and the content;
  3. Guidelines for using the most relevant functionality of the system;
  4. A section with explanations of errors (so-called troubleshooting) that contains basic problems and solutions to overcome them.

Sometimes the guide may include a block of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ), feedback contacts, a block of terminology, and a list of all kinds of additional materials.

How to Create a User Guide Correctly?

While writing a user guide, technical specialists have to consider one of three ways to implement such a document, namely:

  • Guide – detailed and step-by-step description of typical software features. This way of presentation of the material is good for novice users who see the product’s performance for the first time.
  • Subject information – the document with chapters, where each section contains a detailed description of the functionality.
  • Data presented in alphabetical sequence. It’s an additional material to search for information for experienced users. Hence, they can update their knowledge or remember something as soon as possible.

All the manuals are written digitally over the last years. Hence, they also have the Search part which considerably simplifies the search of necessary data.

One of the main criteria of a guide’s success is that it can reflect the current state of the software.

Sometimes it may happen that specialists have written the manual for the initial product version. But after the further modernization of software, no one updated this guide. Such a situation can lead to much confusion and negative user feedback.


All mentioned above shows that the creation of a technical user guide when releasing software is an integral part of the general process of software development. Such documents (physical and digital) are a good source of technical features of the software that users first try out.

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