As someone who works with WordPress, I (and countless others of my brethren) can attest the fact that we are NOT teachers.
A lot of developers aren’t equipped for dealing with the responsibilities of teaching the nitty-gritty and How-To of installation, hosting, or anything else really. That doesn’t mean we don’t know what we’re doing; only that we don’t know how to explain it to someone who has no idea what WordPress is or how it works, especially in a language they’ll understand.
Communication (or lack thereof) can make or break the best of relationships, the ones-with-clients’ included.
So when that someone happens to be a client who wants to check in on their WordPress project now and again, that is when we find ourselves at the poor, frayed ends of our tethers.
If you find yourself in the same boat, a simple WordPress Instructional Manual for your clients can solve (a lot, if not all of) your problems. And yes, it’s as easy as it sounds. Even if it doesn’t, you can always hire someone else to do it for you.
I would still suggest making it a special project and putting the best writers of your team on it. They will be familiar with the clients and the platform, and that saves you time and effort.
If you’re the one writing it (for your freelance business or team or anyone else, really) here’s a guide on how to write it:
The Purpose: This manual is to introduce the basics of WordPress as clearly and precisely as possible to your clients.
Research WordPress. If you are not already familiar with your platform, you can NOT hope to teach its basics to others. So research extensively and learn everything there is about the platform (at least up to your clients’ level).
If you’ve got that covered, you can start with the audience. Since you will want to keep this manual Short and Simple (because let’s face it, you don’t want clients playing the TL; DR card), we don’t have to devote too long planning and mapping the content architecture.
Research your audience. Take note of the points they struggle with and pay particular attention to those in your content and/or FAQ section.
Putting it in Words
Storytelling and narration will be your two best friends while writing the manual. There are some tips for effective writing (more on that later in this section) that you will need to keep in mind while writing the following:
The Introduction to WordPress Instructional Manual
Here’s the ‘beginning’ of the ‘story’. This is where you give a brief overview of:
- WordPress: The CMS and why it’s popular.
- The Goal: Say what you are going to accomplish through this manual.
- The How’s and Why’s: Tell the readers how you are going to accomplish the goal.
- Requirements: Things your users need to know/do/have. For example, web host requirements, FTP clients, etc.
Keep it short, friendly, simple, and to-the-point.
This is the body of your manual. This is also where most readers’ find it difficult to keep their attention from waning too much.
You need to put yourself in your clients’ shoes and put on their hats. What would be the first thing they will do on WordPress? Answer that and follow the logical order of activities from there. This will give you a Table of Content.
Next, you will need to make each of those ‘steps’ into complete, self-contained sections. Use topics and subtopics for more detail (if you need to go into it). For example, the ‘Admin’ section can contain subtopics for individual elements: Dashboard, Posts, Media, Pages, Comments, Appearance, and so on…
To further save time and simplify matters for your readers, include an intro at the beginning of each new section and what they can accomplish in it. Include a summary at the end.
Detail is, of course, necessary, but keep the Rule* in mind. Since we are using this manual to introduce our clients to WordPress, refrain from going in too deep and confusing the readers.
*The Rule: Minimize TL; DR excuses.
The steps for any process should be numbered. All important information should be highlighted.
Use screenshots and images wherever you can. This is because they help:
- Break Monotony: Give the readers’ eyes a break.
- Simplify: Screenshots can give ‘life-like’ examples to support your content and make things easier to grasp.
Properly caption all screenshots and images to further elucidate and enhance your point. Add details like arrows and highlights to show the elements currently being discussed.
You have covered all basics with intro and explained them (briefly) within the content using liberal amounts of visuals. You can still add more.
Additional sections like Tutorials (Videos/ Text), FAQs, Quick tips, Troubleshooting Guide, Glossary/ Terminology, References etc. can be added to make your manual more comprehensive.
Based on your clients’ needs (on an average), you can also create a separate Developers’ Guide. This is when your team is only providing a WordPress product/ service to a client (Example: Themes, Plugins, etc.) and they need documentation to customize it.
Just because it’s good doesn’t mean it can’t get better.
Format, revise, and edit your manual.
You can also ask a client (or anyone who has no clue about WordPress) to pore over your manual and rate it.
Points to Keep in Mind
- Always, always, Keep it Short and Simple. Paragraphs, sentences, all of it. Employ brevity to enhance comprehension.
- Focus on the reader. Talk in second person and use ‘you’ and ‘your’ to make the content user-specific.
- Stay in the present. Don’t use past/ future tenses (unless absolutely necessary)
- Polite, friendly, and engaging tone is always encouraged. You can deviate from this path by matching the ‘brand personality’.
After following the guidelines (Research, Write Intro > Write Content > Add Images > Consider Extras > Make Revisions), you should have a compact WordPress user manual for your clients.
Use it well.