Any software user guide will be a complex document no matter how you create it.
By far the best option these days is to create it as an e-book style PDF complete with a comprehensive (three-levels) table of contents for ease of navigation and rapid access to any written content.
However, since the advent of really good and easy-to-use screen capture and video editing software, combining an e-book along with clickable hyperlinks or static links to a video library playlist makes this a breeze.
Using three of the world’s best software applications to accomplish this is easier than you might think. The addition of a google account and a YouTube creator’s account makes all this possible.
Speech recognition software enables seriously fast compilation of any document, the optional additions of Grammarly and Snagit complete the list of items needed to create any style of professional workbook, workshop manual or user guide.
The learning curve to do all this efficiently, professionally, and for the lowest possible cost is a steep one. But well worth the effort.
The needs of the end-user are the critical criteria that dictate specifically how your document must be created and presented.
You will gain immediate feedback from your user guides, both the written content and the linked video content, from the very second that someone puts them into practice in real-time.
If you’ve made any blunders anywhere, they will be rapidly pointed out to you!
Then comes the time for some very quick modifications to your user guide content and a quick republish and the job is done.
If you are producing hardcopy documentation then you will need to use a print on demand service as your users require it, and as a paid-for version, because if you produce hardcopy as a stock item it is virtually impossible to rectify any issues once print production has started and filters into any distribution network.
Your stock will become unusable and unsaleable and your business reputation and your bank balance will be permanently tarnished.
An e-book, on the other hand, does not suffer from the above ailments and can be modified as required and back into circulation the same day whether product delivery is by a link in an email or a website download location.
Video content produced as supporting content for the e-book can also be very rapidly correctly reproduced and back into circulation the same day.
I find that software user guides are best produced as a multi-video content displayed playlist, and also with a comprehensive and well-detailed table of contents for ease of user navigation throughout the contents.
For example; if it takes two hours to go through a particular software showing all the functions, it’s better to separate all those functions into separate videos.
Your goal should be to produce videos of say 15 minutes in length for the comfort of user absorption or of a duration enough to cover the particular software functions that can be broken down or segmented.
The days of filling a hardcopy book with hundreds of screenshots (very time-consuming to create) of software demonstrations are over.
I’ve produced all manner of user guides, workbooks and workshop manuals for everything from software to mechanical items over the past 20 years. It’s standard practice for me to offer everything in all formats.
The e-book with linked video content wins hands down every time these days and is almost always chosen as the preferred medium for accepting complex or tedious information.
When you ask your end-users what they want, and how they want it delivered, the response is usually rapid and precise.
An ‘ask campaign’ works very well for any informational product.