A User Manual is an important product documentation tool that helps a user to understand any system in general. It details the step by step procedure to make the end-user perform a task with the product and also helps with approach and usability it. User Manual is also called a User Guide or an Instruction Manual.
A well-written User Manual guides and provides the user with a comfortable platform for product take-offs, with minimal effort.
Every instruction provided in the manual carries a well-defined goal. The sole purpose of a User Manual is to ensure and enhance the proper use of the product sold to the user.
So it is important to follow proper practices when you’re writing a User Manual. There are various types of products including Physical and Software products that require a User Manual.
In this article, we will see elaborately on how to write a User Manual that is common for any type of product.
If you writing a User Manual yourself is tough for you and you need help you have agencies such as TrustMyPaper for Rewriting, Editing, and Proofreading your User Manual.
Phases of Writing a User Manual
There are 3 fundamental Phases in writing a User Manual. They are:
From a recent study, 64% of all customers or users who use a product go through the User Manual to find some relevant information. This directly points to how important a user manual is for the consuemers.
A User Manual requires proper planning and organizing before you can write the manual itself. Many people focus less than their planning &organizing and end up in creating a mess.
When you plan and organize the User Manual properly, your writing will significantly improve and it will help the user or the purchasing party to effectively and grow their trust in the company that produced the product.
Phase 1: PLANNING
Planing for a User Manual (Main Focus on Software Products)
When planning you should keep in mind that the product itself is new and users are also new to your product. So the User Manual should have an apt description for every step in using the product.
It helps in saving time and money. Some products when misused cannot be reused, hence with a detailed user manual, it saves money and enhances productivity.
A good User Manual always is product-centric and follows a set of tips and tricks which are given in the compilation that follows1.
1. Make a List – List the necessary tools, items, and other requirements to write the User Manual
2. Study the Product – You need to fully understand the Product and the Product Architecture
3. Form a Team – If the Product is sizable, you need to form a team of experts to work in the User Manual and split the work to each of them according to their area of expertise
4. Coordinate with Release Date – Find out the Product release or Launch dates and plan in such a way that the User-Manual is ready before the release dates
5. Identify Target Groups – Try to understand the users and split them into groups form a User Persona for each group. For example, there can be 3 groups such as 1) Non-Technical 2) Moderate-Technical and 3) Highly-Technical
6. Table of Contents – Form a barebones structure for the User Manual and organize in a Table of Contents
Phase 2: ORGANIZING
There are several ways you can organize your User Manuals content:
- First Impression Content
- Design-Based Instructions
- One-Page Short Guides
- Organizing Based on Viewers Perspective
- Marketing and Labeling Compliance
1. Make a Strong and Positive First Impression:
- Rarely are times when the user, out of all these methods uses the product Description and User Manual to learn to use the product.
- So avoid the age-old textbook looks with fading texts and colors. Rather go with purposeful and intentional use of colors, texts, and fonts that relate to the project.
- Provide a lot of white spaces, pictures, and diagrams.
2. Designs Based Instructions:
Instructions are the basis on which the entire product Catalogue/Manual sits on. It the attention of the user for a glimpse. To make the most out of this, follow these steps
- Keep the instructions neat and simple.
- Providing information in the correct order of use.
- Avoid symbols, codes, and short forms early for reading ease.
- Enhance data find-ability constantly.
- Use present-tense and active voice always.
- Standardizing spellings, phrases, and word choice.
- Check if all instructions match with the actual product as mentioned.
- Always assume the user to be an Amateur/ beginner.
- Use Bold for subheadings and format your description.
A good teacher always teaches to the slowest students. Bearing and keep that in mind will help the designers to answer all the questions in brief and in detail for everyone to understand.
3. One Page – Quick Start Guide:
- Legible font size is mandatory. San-Serif works well.
- Make it crisp and clear.
- Product Tagline
- Highlight all major features of the product.
- Limited & Numbered instruction ( of the main feature)
- Conduct sample usability tests, collect data and find out the common questions and queries. Address them.
- Prioritize the product deliverables and brief about them.
- If your User Manual is going to be a digital or hard copy; stick with the basics of contrasts for texts and background (white background with black text).
4. Analyzing the Viewer’s Perspective:
Technical Communicator has to find out the key demographics of the people who are likely to purchase the product. It could be from a range of IT Engineers, Farmers, Machine hands, Production line workers, military, etc the list goes endless.
- Language required for effective communication
- Perspective and views of the user
- How much they might know about the product
- Depth of detail needed in the description
- Focus on red routes (critical solution )
- Target audience / requirements for specific functions
- Technical skill level of the user
5. Enhancing User Experience from an Organizational Perspective:
- Provide useful information
- Product description to get an overall idea
- Proceed in a systematic trail; quick problem-solving instructions
- Virtual product demonstrations to enable quick learning in social media platforms like YouTube and product websites.
- Being open to bloggers and Tweeters to explore ideas and interests in the product; creating a social market for the product.
- Assisting and help features in the main screen space
- Employ dedicated technical writers as they are the problem solvers. Make them part of the core design team and in the knowledge sharing processes.
6. Compliance with Marketing and Labeling Requirement:
These are marketing standards and policies set by the respective governing department. They are set up with usage and standards of marketing risks and checklist regulating internal policies.
An internal audit and trail will keep a track on specifications so that the organization does not woe to huge financial and branding loss.
Phase 3: EXECUTING
Preparing for your execution is the ultimate scope and final step for the entire process.
After planning and Organizing work which deals mainly with data collected from various resources, trails and functionality tests, marketing campaigns, spreading awareness, finding branding ambassadors, production of the product if necessary.
- Working on the final manual
- Strong First Impression for the product
- Processed data into the finished product
- Revisions and Feedback Policy
- Helpline & Technical Web Services
- Quality and Technical Specifications
When it comes to bringing something to life, the User Manual is from where the help comes from at an entry-level.
Essentials of a User Manual:
General warning and Caution notification, the potential threat should be an essential part of the product description. These may be placed right in front of the manual.
General product description with the tag line also consisting of a few graphics to what the decision is about.
- Safety warnings
- A list of parts in the product
- Results of an improper setup
- Do’s and Don’ts
- Product Care
- Serial number and Reference numbers (if any)
- Manual revision number with date
- Publisher Details
- List of Abbreviations and key terms
- Alternative methods
- Troubleshooting section
- Storage specification
- Accurate Translation verification
- Referral information
Proofreading has to be done for the entire manual with different levels of Project Team individuals is a mandatory procedure to conclude the project.
Points to Evaluate:
The final recommendations commence after the product is released to the market, the sales teams start off, technical and product queries start coming. This is an important phase for the entire project team to analyze their work.
It is much similar to an examination written after a long period of Planning, Organizing and Executing; and as a project, now is the time for the final results.
Project Teams should pay keen attention to this as these major factors will either build them or they can knife them completely.
A few key pointers to evaluate the entire project:
- Product Ergonomics- buyer persona
- (Pre/Post) Purchase experience
- Usage experience
- Quality Assurance & Control
- Product Sustenance
- Post-release data analytics
- User Satisfaction
- Bounce rate
- Engagement Rate
- Corporate Identity
- Feedback Policy
Creating a User Manual Website to Help your Users
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So why wait; Be on your way to writing out your own User Manual instructions, sample user guide, awesome user manuals.