How to Make a Reference Guide that Really Works

Think of a reference guide as an instruction manual for life’s tasks. Whether it’s an employee handbook or training manual, it's there to provide useful information on the spot. It should answer questions and help solve problems. And if you're putting one together, you can make it amazing.

How? It’s simple. Know your audience (the user), and give them exactly what they want. Here are three important considerations when putting together a reference guide that's indispensable.

1) Offer useful content

Collect information for your guide that’s accurate, up to date and relevant. Just because there’s a lot of content available doesn’t mean it belongs in there. Present the information in bite-sized chunks. In addition to text, consider including images, graphs and tables. They can also help to break up blocks of words.

2) Make the information easy to find

Users are looking to grab what they want from your guide, and go. So make it easier for them by organizing your information into sections. If your guide covers a process, the sections can be presented step by step. If it's offering information, divide it into categories such as by task, product, action, people or frequently asked questions.

Once you’ve identified your sections, organize your information in a binder using dividers such as Avery Index Maker® Dividers. With Avery Design & Print Online you can customize your tab titles to print onto labels, and print as many sets as you need. Index Maker® Dividers feature Easy Apply™ strips, which make it a cinch to attach tab labels onto a set of dividers at once—just apply, press and peel. The clear labels blend in with the dividers for a professional, printed-on look.

Other troubleshooting tips:

- Add a table of contents at the beginning of your reference guide.
- Apply tab titles to both sides of the dividers so it’s easy to flip from one section of the binder to another.
- Use the Auto-Fill templates on avery.com/print to save time formatting multiple sets of labels.
- Consider using color or adding icons to make tabs stand out.
- Create a binder spine and cover so you can identify the reference binder whether it’s on a shelf or desk.

3) Keep it simple

Read through your reference guide and make sure it’s easy to understand and skimmer-friendly. Add headings to highlight key points and follow with supporting details. The user should be able to skim through the headings on each page and get the main gist. If something catches their attention, they will then read the details underneath.

Give it a test run

After you’ve put together a draft of your reference guide, review it to make sure it contains exactly what users would expect to find, in a way that’s most helpful to them. You might also want to ask a few colleagues to review and provide feedback. Fine tune your document, organize it with dividers and get ready to launch!