10 Writing Guidelines for SaaS Applications

Summary: Focus on solving user problems by using consistent ‘easy-to-skim’ language and imagery that provides values to the user.

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When writing documentation for SaaS applications, consider the following:

  1. Registration – explain how to set up the account, register an account, common setup issues, and troubleshooting, for example, if they lose their password.
  2. Settings – this includes the log in, log out, and account settings. What the user can do once they are authorized to use the application.
  3. Navigation – explain to the reader how to get around the application. Are there any additional settings they can turn on? Can they customize the screen? If so, how and where?
  4. Windows – identify the main windows and dialog boxes, and what you can achieve in each.
  5. User Interface Controls – describe the location and purpose of buttons and icons on the user interface.
  6. Configuration Settings – explain to the user how to change any setting on the application. For example, how to change the size, color, position, or values of the screens. Another option is to show them how to add new columns, fields, or customize it, for example, changing the background to a different colour.
  7. Tasks – make a list of the main task. Gather related tasks under specific headings. This usually matches the user interface but there can be overlap with other screens. Prioritize the list and describe the most important tasks first.
  8. Reference – this explains the purpose of every column, text field, drop-down menu, and every option in these menus. Most of these are self-explanatory but you need to account for fields whose purpose is unclear.
  9. Known issues – identify any known issues with the application. For example, if more than five screens are opened at the same time, performance may be impacted.
  10. Warnings – protect users from losing valuable data. Highlight actions that cannot be undone or could have catastrophic consequences.

In addition, consider the following when you start crafting the actual content:

  • User Needs – Focus on solving the user’s problems or needs. Explain how your product can help them accomplish tasks more efficiently or effectively. Use language that resonates with their goals. Avoid talking over the reader. Write to their level.
  • Think mobile – Keep sentences short, direct and ‘scannable’. As many users skim content, break up long paragraphs and use headers, bullet points and bold text to highlight key information.
  • Clarity – Explain features and functionality clearly. Avoid jargon. Define any technical terms needed to help users understand how to use your product. Use examples if helpful.
  • FAQs – Address common questions and objections. Anticipate what questions users may have and answer them proactively.
  • Active Voice – Use active voice and avoid passive constructions. Active voice is more concise and engaging. For example, “The software generates data automatically” rather than “Data is generated automatically by the software.”
  • Benefits – Focus on benefits, not just features. Explain how product features translate into user benefits. Link features to concrete use cases and outcomes.
  • Terminology – Use consistent terminology and messaging aligned with your brand voice. Maintain consistency in language and tone across all content assets.
  • Imagery – Include relevant images, graphics, videos or screenshots to illustrate your points. Visual content improves engagement and comprehension.
  • SEO – Optimize content for SEO where possible by including relevant keywords. This helps users find your content online.
  • Proofread – Review and edit carefully for organization, grammar and spelling before publishing. Error-free content builds credibility.

Conclusion

By focusing on the user’s needs instead of selling the features, you build trust, drive adoption, and increase customer retention of your SaaS product.