Creating easy-to-follow manuals or guides for users is crucial for every product or service to thrive. For this, first, you must understand what is a user manual.
A well-crafted user manual or guide can impart a great customer experience as they can easily use their purchase by following the guide. It is produced with the aim to help end-users in consuming a particular service, application, or product. Let’s examine how manuals are helpful to your business in 2021.
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What is the Definition of User Manual?
A user manual, also known as an instruction manual, is an imperative document that aids your customers to get acquainted with your service quickly or product or help them resolve a problem when they get a fix.
A user manual can be named technical documentation, operational manual, user guide, instruction manual, quick start guide, training manual, maintenance manual, software manual, and installation manual.Almost every product, whether hardware, software, or physical comes with a user manual and is intended to assist consumers in utilizing that particular service, application, and product. It is generally written by a company’s technical writers, customer service staff, technicians, or product developers. It can be published in soft or hard copy or both, as required.
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What does a Good User Manual Achieve?
A good user guide or manual helps individuals to use and explain things that seem complex or unclear. The main problem with a bad user manual is that it does not answer any of the users’ questions. So, what makes a user manual to be effective?
An effective user manual is a technical communication document written by technical writers with a precise purpose – to assist non-technical individuals to identify and solve issues without any expert support. It must fulfill the following aspects to be effective:
- Users can get all the essential information
- The manual should be brief and clear
- The developers can get information for reference
12 Elements of an Effective User Manual
A user manual must be prepared with an aim to make the information quickly accessible to a general reader or an expert. Every product is unique and needs dissimilar components to produce an effective manual. For this, you may consider the below-mentioned elements to be included in your manual:
1. Searchable Content
In this digital era, where everyone has access to smartphones, it seems more logical to produce an electronic user manual. It does not mean you cannot create print versions of it. But such an electronic version delivers numerous advantages as it makes the content searchable.
For example, a table of contents gives consumers easier access to the required content and aids them to find answers on their own.
2. Easy-to-follow Format
Keep the user manual as simple as possible to attain its goal. This is applicable to both – the document’s content and its design. Using long chunks of text and pages packed tightly with graphic and written content can make user guides or manuals feel unfriendly and unattractive. So, to offer an enhanced customer experience, utilize simple format and language.
3. Simple Language
Customers would not be interested in reading anything if the manual is published in a hard-to-understand language. You might know all types of jargon and acronyms about your products but do not assume that your customers might know it.
So, try to use minimal industry and technical buzzwords so that they can use your product by following your manual. Moreover, use plain and simple language to assist users to understand the most multifaceted concepts.
4. Visuals and More Visuals
The best user guide or manual is the one that perfectly represents the text along with its visuals. Such content may include annotated screenshots, images, videos, and graphics that quickly depict how your product works. Usually, readers absorb visual data quicker and execute specific tasks better when directions are provided with video or visual content.
5. Analytical Hierarchy and Flow
An effective user manual needs a hierarchy of headings and subheadings that permits users to know exactly what every segment will demonstrate. And such a hierarchy must follow an analytical flow that aids an average user to learn to utilize your product in the most beneficial way.
6. A Focus on the Problem
The products’ user manual must solve problems of your users. So, make sure that you illustrate how to make usage of your product. Obviously, this would comprise product features in the context of assisting users to get to the reason why they bought your products in the first place.
By keeping every kind of user in mind, you must fabricate accessible content. This means confirming that the user guide or manual observes the criteria of accessibility for individuals who may be visually impaired or blind, hard of hearing or deaf, or may have cognitive incapacities. You must always remember that several consumers require you to understand and access your manual.
8. Table of Contents
A proper table of contents delivers customers an efficient, familiar, and simple way to find a solution to their problem or question quickly. It should be at the beginning of the manual so that the users do not have to go through the pages of text to search for what they are looking for. It must comprise all the main headings and subheadings that entail necessary information.
9. Feedback from Users
You cannot form a great user manual until you have listened to the individuals outside your company who actually use your products. Understand their pain points and endeavor to address them in the best possible manner. By such an examination, you will learn certain aspects that you might have not considered.
10. A Good Design
Design a manual that is friendly and usable to your users. You must avoid long paragraphs pages that are crammed with text only. Let white space help break the dullness and make the vision of learning a novel product less intimidating. Wherever possible, include images and graphics to illustrate instead of guiding your users how to use the particular product with text only.
For electronic user manuals, you can use GIFs and video too. Use complementary colors and consistent fonts across manifold docs. CloudTutorial features allow you to create professional-looking manuals in minutes. You can include a series of images and screenshots so that the users find it easy to understand the context.
11. Step-by-step Directions
Step-by-step instructions in user manuals help evade long slabs of text and offer a much richer way to display a procedure than trying to elucidate it by text only. They are easier to understand and follow, and deliver a user-friendly experience rather than telling someone how to complete a task simply.
12. Links to the Resources
You must ensure that your users have access to your company’s resources that help them be successful with your products. For electronic user manuals, you can simply provide links to FAQs, tutorials, user forums, and other related docs. Whereas, printed manuals can comprise things like phone numbers and website addresses for further quick assistance.
7 Easy Steps for Creating the Content of a User Manual
A user guide or manual is a combination of several things exhibited with a view to impart useful information about the products or services. At its central, is the instructional and technical writing process. Following the below-mentioned 7 steps (with free template), you can develop the perfect content for your manuals:
Step 1: Getting Complete Knowledge of the Manual
The preliminary phase for creating the manual’s content requires you to understand what a user manual is, what information should be included, and what format should be adopted in it. The primary objective of such a manual is to assist its users. And the secondary objectives should be meeting legal requirements and producing a better user experience.
Step 2: Classify the Users of the Manual
You write a user manual with the intent to solve issues of the audience. For this, you need to identify who your users are. And this can be done by forming a user profile, named persona. By developing a persona, you make rational assumptions about the attributes of your users. This helps you in jotting down user instructions.
Step 3: Form Topics for Answering Users’ Problems
Start detecting the challenges that your users might face during the usage of the product. The usual problems might involve using the product safely, installing the product, and maintaining and disposing of the product.
Step 4: Outline the User Manual’s Structure
Make a section of every topic in the user guide. It can be described in a chapter or a paragraph. When a user is searching for a solution to his or her problem, he will utilize the table of contents to discover how to navigate to that particular solution.
Step 5: Generate Relevant Headings
Every topic in the instructional manual gets its own heading and subheading. These headings are the labels that pave the way for the actual content. They must be exhibited in the table of contents so that the user can navigate easily to the required information.
Step 6: Define the Legal Matter
Based on the market where your service or software product is put in, specify the legislation levied on it. You must define the legal content that describes your product to be ‘safe.’ Also, being dependent on the product category your product belongs to, furnish general safety measures that it must meet.
Step 7: Start Creating the Manual’s Content
The aim of your product and its intended use is the spirit of your user manual. This forms the foundation of confirming the optimum and safe use of the product. Along with the intended use, standards, regulations, and directives, including an explanation of the relatively probable misuse.
Why Does Your Business Need User Manuals?
No matter how tech-savvy today’s consumers are, they are habituated to easy solutions. This digital age promotes smart devices and intuitive technology and individuals want to know them without unnecessary hassle.
User guides or manuals are a substantial aspect for each IT developer and a much-needed supplementary to customer services. The following are the benefits stating why your business needs a user manual:
1. Simplifies Onboarding and Training
Increase employee retention by 82% by implying a good employee onboarding procedure instead of conventional training which is expensive and time-consuming. You may need to organize a meeting room, appoint an instructor, give away notebooks and pens, prepare PowerPoint presentations, and the list gets bigger.
You can reduce such expenses and improve your onboarding approach by using user manuals of your internal knowledge base as on-page lectures. In this way, new employees can study while working at their own pace and time.
2. Decreases Support Costs
Interactive user manuals help systematize customer support, as they can provide answers to frequently asked questions that do not require decision-making or intelligence.
By furnishing self-service tools such as tooltips and product tours on your site, consumers can follow directions and interact with your platform at the given time. This will lessen the number of upcoming support calls and eradicate the want to produce additional support documentation.
3. Saves Time
When new personnel has reference material like a user manual, they know where to go when they have queries, empowering them to get answers without wasting any time.
Also, they do not require to ask many questions of their colleagues, saving these colleagues’ time. Furthermore, these manuals save time for experienced employees who may have queries or need a review.
4. Reduces Liability
Having a user manual is one of the best ways to exhibit that you took sufficient procedural cautions to comply with guidelines and take adequate safety warnings. Specific products that might be unsafe include powerful light sources, high voltage electronics, lasers, heating, and mechanical devices.
Customer support supplies can embrace the right tags and different warning marks within the manual to guard the users. In case of any unfortunate situation, the company will not be held liable in court as it provided all the relevant warnings and instructions written in its manual.
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A user manual explains clearly how a user can make use of the product, application, or service that the business offers. This manual must be written by utilizing non-technical vocabulary and should contain the key functions and features of such a product.
A user manual is a document that organizations create in regard to several services or products that they provide. The aim of such manuals is to describe how to utilize a certain product properly and, more significantly, securely. This is a technique for customer support that can assist companies to get enhanced results.
Writing a good user manual includes defining your audience, describing the problem, breaking it down, knowing your reader, being descriptive, taking related images, not using passive voice, and avoiding using the first person.
For all your products to succeed, knowing what is a user manual and how to craft it for an easy understanding is essential. To make a manual or guide more appealing, use the CloudTutorial knowledge base platform where you can lay emphasis on required details, add graphics, charts, process flow diagrams, or screenshots.Sign up for FREE to design this documentation in a manner that is most helpful to your users.
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