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Make Your Own User Manual

Community Member, Kylea Johnson, shows you how to make the best manual for your organization. Give this blog a "LIKE" to vote for it to win the bbcon blog contest!

Don't feel overwhelmed like the man above. You can make the BEST manual for YOUR organization!

Structure It

  1. Use numbered lists.
  2. See? You went right to number 2 and didn’t even mess up the database!
    • Use a subset to explain things without losing track of the process.
  3. Refrain from using screenshots.
  4. It can be useful to insert a little piece of the screen into the text. I.e. the elusive “Export” 93f75ff1fc9e6e8611f7bb541273a4fe-huge-ex button in Raiser’s Edge. 
  5. Keep it as short as humanly possible. I mean, I’m writing a blog about user manuals and even I get pretty bored around page 35. Blackbaud provides PLENTY of general information and support—don’t re-type the whole “how to import” section. This document should ONLY show the user how to upkeep the database to YOUR organization’s standards and needs. 

Use Subheadings

These are great to tell your users why they need to take certain steps, or to define "attributes". 

Empower the User!

Give users the information they need to make the right decisions. If they don’t know why it’s important to fill out the gift type field correctly or what a solicit code is, you may be disappointed with your results, even with the best numbered list in the world.


Good luck!
Posted by Crystal Bruce on Sep 3, 2018 8:07 PM America/New_York

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Good luck, Kylea Johnson‍ !
  • Posted Tue 04 Sep 2018 09:43 AM EDT
Margie LinnChristine Fossett‍ Vote for me! Florida isn't THAT far away. ; )
  • Posted Tue 04 Sep 2018 11:21 AM EDT
Why don't you want to use screen shots? We have two versions, one with detailed processes and another for those who need to see the image. We have found that there are two kind of learners, one who can understand and follow written text, whereas others need a detailed image loaded guide. This is a great subject! Good luck :)
  • Posted Sat 08 Sep 2018 05:59 AM EDT
Merrianne McGill‍ a cautious use of screenshots can be very helpful! However, there are a lot of user manuals out there that screen shot every step of a process, which can be cumbersome and often don't serve well as go-to guides for more experienced users. These manuals push 100+ pages and can be helpful for first-time users, but often don't guide more complex scenarios that come up in the weeks/months/years after hire. It is very hard to "branch off" and show these scenarios in the "screen shot step by step". I haven't tossed our old screenshot step-by-step manual as it can be useful for new folks. = )
  • Posted Mon 10 Sep 2018 02:32 PM EDT
Step 1: MAKE TIME TO MAKE THE USER MANUAL! lol. Too often this step is pushed down the ladder of importance due to lack of staff and/or other pressing/frontfacing matters. 
  • Posted Thu 13 Sep 2018 06:14 PM EDT
How did this do in the bbcon blog contest?
  • Posted Mon 25 Mar 2019 02:36 PM EDT
Marilyn Bellemore‍ it did well! This was an awesome blog Kylea submitted!
  • Posted Mon 25 Mar 2019 02:50 PM EDT
Crystal, that's excellent! Thanks for responding so promptly. 
  • Posted Mon 25 Mar 2019 03:07 PM EDT
Great reminders as I embark on starting this process for our team!
  • Posted Mon 25 Mar 2019 03:48 PM EDT
I really appreciate this! I am in the middle of this very process and will use some of the points highlighted.
  • Posted Tue 26 Mar 2019 11:21 AM EDT