User Manuals: A Style Guide for Effective Results

User manuals are a perfect tool for understanding a product. Not only do they help with getting to know the item and its specifications, but they also help with learning how to use something. Being familiar with this prevents unintentional breakdown of the product, which then prevents further expenses on the reparation. For instance, if someone wanted to buy a washing machine, having a manual would help them learn all about the features and guidelines for using the machine in a fairly short time. And not only do these manuals help with hardware, but with software, as well.

Nevertheless, having just any type of a manual wouldn’t be enough. In order to make the users read it, a user manual has to comply to certain styling guidelines like having a visual aid or short, concrete sentences. With that in mind, here are a few practices that would really help you create effective manuals, and make the users actually read them.user-m

Know your audience

In order to make a constructive guide, you will need to be familiar with the type of people who would use a certain product. Before writing anything, create a profile of several customer types. For example, think about where the product would be used, like a home or an office; what age would the user be – young or adult; and what level of expertise would they have. These are just a few things to consider when creating a successful user manual.

For instance, if your target audience are older people with a low level of expertise, you would try and make the content precise, short, and straight to the point. Because of this, they would easily understand the instructions and quickly start using the product.

Present the problem and the solution, too

When describing a product, make sure you provide possible problems and solutions for each one. No matter the difficulty of a problem, it would be best to break it down into details. For instance, explain the issue first, then write the solution in short, clear sentences. Also, present it in steps. This would give a user a simple-to-understand guide that they could easily follow. Additionally, if you tend to use technical expression, make an effort to explain them in an appendix or remove them completely. Using a simple style of writing provides the best results.

For example, the best way of doing this would be to first give an introduction to the product and what it does. Then, write about the different features and how to best utilize them to get a certain result. And lastly, say what the end result should look like. This would slowly lead the customer into the story. Further, once you’ve finished with the introduction, start with the breakdown of each step. And in the end, summarise the whole procedure once again.

Provide visual aids

Having only written word won’t be enough. For a better understanding, a user has to have an image provided, as well. The visual aid would help the user comprehend the internal structure of an item, its components, and how they are all connected. So, you can put an image with arrows pointing to each important part, which would then be further marked and explained. Moreover, if you use online manuals, you could add videos, too.

Of course, images are incredibly useful, but having a video that shows a hands-on approach would certainly benefit a majority of users. Also, you have to understand that there are different types of learners – some prefer visuals, other like everything written in black and white. So, be professional and give your audience everything they need. One last thing to keep in mind – do not forget to include a detailed table of contents at the beginning of the manual. Not having one or having a very basic table is a clear sign that your manual is badly written.

Use a readable font and personalised style

You might have the best instructions ever, but if the font you write in is not readable then all that effort would be worthless. Therefore, write your document in a clear, readable font. Choosing a professional font that fits the material is crucial, so you should never go with something as amateurish as Comic Sans. It is important that a person can follow the lines and sentences without getting tired. Also, do not use a font that is too small or too big. Finding a balance is the best solution.

How can user manuals benefit your business?

In addition to being an essential help tool that provides clear instructions for your customers, user manuals are actually a great substitution for a customer service centre. This represents a bonus for your ecommerce business because you won’t need a special customer service team. By providing online manuals, for instance, you would allow your customers to easily find all the information they need without having to call your company and talk to an agent. Clearly, they would save time, as well as money. Even better, the same could be applied to your business.

And finally, you could create an online manual yourself with a knowledge base software. With it, you can create various types of documents, such as FAQ pages or user guides. Also, they can easily be customised to fit your company’s colors and brand. And finally, because the knowledge base stores everything online, all the files can be updated, edited and shared without much effort.

It is obvious that user manuals benefit your customers by providing necessary information, but as you can see they also benefit your company. By giving the customers what they need, and making them interesting – with the right style – you would definitely create a more stable relationship with your audience. A satisfied customer equals a great marketing tool for your business.

Contributed by http://www.proprofs.com/

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