User manuals to support, train, and assist your customers are vital in every business sector. Just a few examples: Factory Foreman needs to look over safety rules for a new press or a Doctor wants to make sure he’s clearing his equipment properly. What about private buyers? The woman who needs a size chart before ordering that dress, or the man who is having problems with his blender.
What do these customers have in common? They all want answers and support. They want it fast. That’s why instructions and user manuals that are up to date and easily accessible are so important. So important that the quality of documents and the customer support are factors in many purchases.
We have 10 Golden Rules to help you create an excellent user manual for your company.
When writing a user manual or instruction manual it’s important that you master the subject. To refresh your memory we suggest:
Who is your audience? Who are you writing this for? An expert welder will understand the terminology about the new torch you are selling, but if you are selling that new torch to hardware stores, the average person off the streets may not have a clue what certain terminology mean. Here are some ways to make sure you are adapting to your target Audience:
When choosing a writing style for a manual remember to use the same tone throughout the manual. Also remember what the mood of the audience will be at the time they are reading the manual. For example: When writing a troubleshooting page it’s safe to say that your readers will be frustrated because there is a problem with the product, now wouldn’t be a good time to have a humorous tone. Here are some tips to choose a tone:
Since technical manuals are read to inform the reader, the writing must be concise and precise. Your reader will quickly be looking for answers to a problem, to use the manual for safety or to start up procedures. Guidelines are below:
The structure of your manual is just as important as the concepts that your manual expresses. Ideas and instructions must be easy to find, and easy to execute. When structuring your manual:
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to take high quality photos. Readers need to see actions as well as read about them. Here are some tips for using photos in your manual:
It is also helpful to use other types of visuals such as illustrations, but remember:
If your words, photos, and illustrations still are not enough use videos.
Now that your manual is properly written it is time to distribute it to your clients. The best ways to distribute manuals are:
From time to time your team may need to update the content of the manuals, this is fine and will show your clients that you are constantly improving your products and services.
Empower your users to create great technical documentation by getting this manifesto posted in your office or workshop.
This Manifesto is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 license.