Getting Started

If you were making an old-fashioned three-ring binder-style operations manual or training manual, you would put your name and logo on the cover. You just would.

When we released an update last spring that included a branding setup wizard, we saw a 20%+ increase in our trial conversions. Crazy, right? But that shows how emotional building the how-to guide for your business can be.

As an owner or manager, you take pride in making your documentation your own. As an employee, you feel like your company is more “official” when your onboarding and training experience feels customized.

So, we always recommend that you start with some simple steps.

Use a real logo with a transparent background (a .png works best). Avoid using a photo or something that isn’t transparent, because this logo will appear in many places throughout your account.

Your logo will appear in your account header, on your login page, on user invite emails, on reminder emails, and on PDF exports out of the system. So, it’s worth taking the time to get it right!

Just select a file from your computer and modify sizing and placement to make it as close to the edges without going over.

Need help setting up your logo? Just let us know and we’ll custom brand your account for you. It’s that important!

Pick Your Colors

Next, you’ll select two colors: a custom background color (for the logo in the application and on your sign-in page), and a secondary color for the buttons and links throughout your account.

If you’re not sure which colors to pick, we recommend using a tool like Colorfy. It will analyze your website and pull all the most frequently used colors, giving you a great idea of your brand’s theme.

When you discover your color, you’ll see the color’s “hex code” (a way of specifying color using hexadecimal values). It will look something like #ffffff (white).

Either paste those codes into the fields on Trainual or use our color picker by clicking on the color square to open a color selection window.

Adjust Your Account Settings

When you first set up your Trainual account, there are a few questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do you want to allow discussions in the system?

  2. Do you want to allow your users to request access to material they are not assigned?

  3. Do you want to enable printing and PDF generation of the subjects inside your account?

This basic setup is important to make the account your own.

Learn more about Trainual’s account settings here!

Terminology: Subjects, Topics & Steps

In Trainual, we organize content into Subjects, Topics, and Steps.

Think of Subjects like a folder of policies and processes, that you can assign to one or many people based on roles in your company to learn. It’s important to understand that you assign content at the Subject level, so be sure that all material within a Subject is applicable to the group to which you’re assigning it.

You might create a Subject for something that applies to everyone, like “New Hire Orientation.” Or, you might create a Subject that applies to a department, like “Sales Playbook.” Since you can have unlimited Subjects, Subjects can also be very specific to a role, such as “Payroll & Benefits” or “Overview of our CRM”.”

A typical Trainual account has 15-30 Subjects, but many accounts have well over 100 Subjects. You can always break one Subject into multiple Subjects later on, so we recommend starting with larger categories, and splitting them out as you get more familiar with the system.

Inside of a Subject, you can create Topics.

Topics are the individual policies or processes that you want to document in the system. Examples of Topics include: Posting a Blog, Onboarding a Client, Processing Payroll, Creating a Google Analytics Account, Running Weekly KPI Report, Sending an Invoice… the possibilities are endless.

Our top accounts have over 1,000 Topics, but most accounts end up creating between 30-100 Topics.

Finally, each Topic consists of Steps. Steps are the sequence of the process you are communicating, or, when talking about more contextual topics like “Our Company History,” steps represent the outline of how you want to present the information.

Try not to get caught up in the terminology! The important thing to note is that you can organize content in Trainual three layers deep, you can create unlimited Subjects, Topics and Steps, and you can rearrange and re-organize everything at any time. So let’s start creating.

As a Trainual user, navigate to the “Subjects” page inside your account, and then click on the toggle for “Outline View.”

Working In Outline View

Thinking about the role or process that you’re starting with, create a general Subject name that relates. For example, let’s use the Subject, “Welcome to Trainual.”

Click the “+ Subject” button, and this will create your first Subject. By default, the Subject is “Unpublished,” which means that only admins inside your account can see the material until you decide to publish it to your users.

Below the Subject title, you can create as many Topics (or tests, more on those later) that you’d like. Build an outline of all the Topics that come to mind when thinking about this area of your business. Again, for a subject like Welcome to Trainual, we might create a list that looks like this:

When you expand a Topic by clicking the “+” icon to the left of each row, you can populate all of the Steps with the Topic. As an example, here is how your “Get to Know Us” might look:

As you can see, content in Trainual is very individualized for your specific business.

Creating outlines in Trainual is the easiest way to get started.

At any time, you can drag, drop, and rearrange your Steps and Topics. You can duplicate Steps or Topics that you want to reproduce elsewhere. And you can shift content between Subjects, or create new subjects to further subdivide your material.

Rules of Thumb

If you have more than 10 Topics inside a Subject, consider splitting them out into multiple Subjects. If you have more than 15 Steps inside a Topic, consider breaking them out into multiple Topics.

Of course, this is completely subjective, but we have found that when content is more bite-size in nature, it is easier for your users to consume. So, try to stick to these guidelines to help make your material digestible and easy to reference.

When you’re ready to edit, click the pencil icon on any Topic or Step to begin writing your content.

Writing Your Content

Now it’s time to get some work done! The way you create useful material inside Trainual is by filling out your Steps.

Just like you would create a Google Doc or a Word Doc in a more traditional operations manual, you write content in Trainual’s text editor. Here is a screenshot from inside our own account, describing one of our core values.

Engaging content is more visual, so be sure to incorporate photos where possible to help the user. But, Trainual goes one step further than standard documents with the ability to embed videos, audio files, or even full HTML code.

Using Video to Enhance Your Training

Recording and adding video to your account is the fastest way to make quick progress. Just turn on your webcam, use a service like Loom or Screencastify, and paste your video link or embed code into Trainual.

Learn more about adding Loom videos to your Trainual subjects here!

Your video will appear and play right inside Trainual alongside the rest of your text, screenshots, and file attachments, making the user experience as simple as possible.

Your video will appear and play right inside Trainual alongside the rest of your text, screenshots, and file attachments, making the user experience as simple as possible.

Creating Tests

As you create content, one thing to consider is whether you might like to test your users’ retention of what they have learned through simple knowledge checks.

In Trainual, you can create unlimited Tests, arranged alongside your Topics in any order.

Some users will create a structure in which every Topic is followed by a Test, but our recommendation is to create one Test at the end of a Subject after the conclusion of all Topics, similar to a final exam at the end of a college course.

How you structure your tests will ultimately depend on the amount of content you create. Click on the pencil icon to edit a test, and inside you will be able to create and rearrange questions, or edit the test settings.

Learn more about test settings here!

Now that you’ve started to build out some of the material inside your account, it’s time to group your content by role in the organization, and assign it to your team.

Assigning Your Material

One of the problems with using Google Docs or Dropbox to store all of your process information is that you cannot effectively assign and track the material. At best, you can share a folder with someone, but likely the folders are filled with documents that are either irrelevant or outdated.

Learn more about the differences between Trainual and Google Docs here!

Our goal with Trainual was to fix this problem. You can assign content in two ways: Individually, or by Role.

Assigning Individual Users to Subjects

In your Subjects page, click on gear icon to open a window of all active users in your account. Here, you can select all applicable users to individually assign them to this material. Individual assignments or un-assignments will override your role settings, so this is a great way to be specific about exactly who should have access to what material.

When users are assigned to Subjects, there are a few things to note. First, they can only see the material if:

  1. The Subject is Published, or

  2. They have a permission level of “Creator” or higher

Read more on permission levels here!

If your material is still unpublished, you can assign content to any person without worrying about general users being notified, since they cannot access the content yet.

But, in most cases, we recommend using the Roles feature for more efficient assignment across your organization.

Assigning By Role

Roles represent each unique position in your organization. In many companies, individuals “wear many hats.” Our recommendation is to create a Role for each of those “hats.”

A user can be assigned multiple roles, and this makes scaling easier, since you won’t have to break apart your content later as you grow.

To create your Roles, navigate to the Subjects page and click the dropdown menu for “All Roles.”

This will display any Roles that you created during setup. At the bottom of the list, you will see an option to “Create A Role.” Click this to open up a window and built a new role.

Inside the resulting window, select all Subjects that are applicable to this Role in the organization.

You can also set a Subject’s applicable roles from inside the Subject editor. When you edit any subject in “Admin” mode, a box at the bottom right of the screen allows you to manage which individual roles in the company should know this material, or you can select “All Roles” to signify that this material applies to everyone.

When you invite a user to your account in the Users page, you can select as many Roles as you would like for that user. Doing so will automatically assign all associated Subjects to that user, giving them instant access to everything that they need, and nothing more.

Finally, note that the order that you list Subjects in your Subjects page or Subjects Outline View will be the same order that those Subjects are presented to your users. So, we suggest putting onboarding and orientation materials at the top of your list to ensure a smooth first day for your new hires.

Note that you can filter the Subjects page by Role to see the exact order from your users’ perspective.

Get Advanced, And Keep Improving

We’ve only covered the basics in this guide, but Trainual can do so much more!

Perhaps you don’t need to track completions for a specific subject. We have a setting for that.

Maybe you want users to retake a Test or review a Subject on a regular basis. You can do that too!

From creating login restrictions, to generating PDF exports, to automating your workflows with Zapier, our Help Docs cover all the specifics to make Trainual a success in your business.

Check them out here, or don’t hesitate to send us a message and we can help get you started.

Remember, It’s Never “Done”

As we said earlier, your manual is never “finished,” so don’t look at this project as something to set and forget. Our Forum feature allows you and your users to discuss your processes and best practices, and our Reports show you which processes might be due for an update.

The more time you invest in creating repeatable processes, the more time you’ll save. And if there’s one thing that’s worth investing in, it’s more time.

We look forward to helping your organization scale through the years and hope this ultimate guide to getting started has been helpful!

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