When your users need to look up a function or command, do they wade through hundreds of pages to find their answer? If your software product or programming language is complex, a reference card could be the perfect way to make it easier for your customers to use. It can educate new users and provide experienced users with a “cheat sheet.”

The more complex your product is or the longer the documentation, the more you need a reference card.

You’ve already made the sale: why should you care?

It’s not enough to sell your software –you need to make sure it is being used. Whether a business application, a game, or a parallel programming API; making great software and getting it into users’ hands isn’t the end of your job. For your software to grow into a mature product that users will upgrade for years to come, you need users to integrate it into their regular routines.

Help turn casual users into experts by giving them tools to make your product as easy for them to use as possible. A reference card is a great way to help beginners as well as turn experts into power users. These  vocal users inspire others to use your product by instructing others, showing off what it can do, participating in user groups and forums, and blogging about their experiences and productive results with your product.

Multiplying the benefit

Of course, including it in your software package is just one of many ways you can use a reference card. Use it in your training program. Give batches of them to your sales team. Put a PDF version on your website then feature it in banner ads across the internet to bring potential customers to your site (one company had over 330,000 downloads in one year!). Use them as on-topic giveaways at tradeshows and events — representing and promoting your product much better than a pen, t-shirt, or plush toy ever could. This is a giveaway that your users will not throw away. Some companies even sell their cards to offset production costs.

Getting it done

Okay, I admit that while I think reference cards are a great idea no matter how you produce them, this is what Miller & Mattson specializes in. Check out a few samples of what I’m talking about. Do you want to talk about a reference card for your business? Let’s talk!

The moral of the story

Succeed by helping your users succeed. Don’t stop with the sale of your API or software product. Create power users and cultivate existing customers into continuous “upgrade” customers by making your software or API as easy as possible for them to use.

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