How to write a good instruction manual

Are you selling technical products that customers have difficulties using? Did you know that knowing how to use a product significantly improves customer experience? Since you will always have beginner customers who have never used your product before, it is wise that you provide them with clear and to-the-point instructions.

When creating a user manual, keep in mind that users will most probably not read the whole manual. Instead, they will let the index guide them to the section that answers their questions quickly. Therefore, you ought to focus on user tasks and the concepts that support the tasks when creating a manual. Below are some tips to help you write a good user manual.

Think like a user

When preparing manuals for processes you know inside out, assume that the users do not know the subject. In doing so, you will not skip any necessary step. That said, you also ought to avoid being too wordy and including unnecessary details. You can watch how users interact with your product to get an idea of what they need to do and how they approach the task.

Prioritize findability

Have you ever used a manual and you could not find what you were looking for quickly? This experience is very frustrating. Make sure that your user manual uses the keywords that customers look for in a manual. Also, organize information hierarchically and divide it into sections guided by:

  • Functional categories
  • Level of knowledge (beginner to expert)
  • Frequency of use
  • Chronology of use

Use active voice

Active voice makes it easy for the user to read and understand the manual because the subject and the verb are clear. Passive voice, on the other hand, has unclear subjects and verbs, and users might not be sure about who is supposed to complete an action.

Write clear, concise instructions

To help users to complete tasks quickly, manuals should be clear and concise. You can achieve this by:

  • Providing just enough instructions to help buyers to complete tasks and understand concepts
  • Use numbered lists to separate different steps
  • Use parallel construction for every step and use imperative words such as “click” to provide users with clues of what is required of every step
  • Do not use system responses as standalone steps. However, you can include them at the beginning of the next step

In conclusion, you can use color coding to highlight important parts of the text. Also, have someone to test it out to see its usability. Ensure that you use VPN manual when reading or uploading PDF user manuals to protect your identity from snooping eyes.