By Alyssa Gregory 7 Tips for Writing an Effective Instruction Manual In your day-to-day work, you might find that there are times when you need to provide a client with documentation that walks them through a process or teaches them how to do something they may be unfamiliar with.
Expertise level beginner vs. Denote importance by using contrast, colour, shading, emboldening etc. Work with real users to identify likely key words these can be learned during usability testing. Provide a key word index using the terminology of the user. Ensure that the index includes likely synonyms.
Provide a glossary of technical terms. Include a genuinely useful trouble-shooting section. Use colour-coding to aid navigation.
Make the quick start guide readily accessible. Avoid unnecessarily cross-referencing to other parts of the user manual. Avoid duplicate page numbering in multi-language guides better still, avoid multi-language.
Clearly display the help-line number. How to give instructions Clearly this is the primary role of the user manual. It is critical that the instructions are easy to writing help manuals and are understandable by all users. Many user manuals have instructions that are incomplete, incorrect, or simply have no bearing on the actual product.
Here are some guidelines to help make instructions easy on the user. Provide step-by-step sequences in the correct order. Follow the timing and sequencing of the actual operations.
Provide visual stepping stones e. Step 1, Step 2 etc. Use everyday words and terms: Explain what a function or feature is for in basic practical terms as well as "How to" instructions.
Check that the instructions match the actual product. Explain symbols, icons and codes early. Do not assume the user has prior experience or product knowledge. Usability test the instructions alongside the product using naive users not designers or product experts.
Write in the present tense and the active voice. Write the steps to task completion while doing the actual task on a real product. Have an independent user then follow the steps literally with the product and check that: It is easy to work through the task from start to finish.
It is easy to break out of task and get back in. It is easy to jump into the user manual half way through a task. How to design individual pages in the user manual In addition to effective instructing, the use of colour, the text and fonts used, and the icons and graphics can all either make for an easy experience or can derail the user.
Here are some suggestions. Ensure that font size is adequate use at least 12 point font. Ensure high text-to-background contrast black on white is best.
Avoid using multiple font styles. Font weight can be used sparingly to denote importance. Use colour coding consistently.
Provide plenty of white space between sections and around images and paragraphs. Provide a section or margins for the users to make their own notes.Tips for writing user manuals.
User manuals have a bad reputation.
In a recent USA Today poll that asked readers "Which technological things have the ability to confuse you?" user manuals came out top! These guidelines can help.
Avoid a text-book look (landscape formatting can be less threatening). Feb 03, · How to Write User Manuals. In this Article: Article Summary Planning Your User Manual Including Essential Information Describing Product Care Writing a Readable Manual Community Q&A Software, computers, games, and devices require user manuals, guides that explain how to use the product (and how not to).
When you write a great help manual you do two things – help customers find and use appropriate solutions easily and slash your business customer support costs significantly. Even more, customers will be glad to recommend your product, and leaders in your business niche will easily recommend your brand to other experts and their customers.
When writing a manual, you need to put on a “user’s hat” and think like a user. You should have a good understanding of your users so you can understand the information they need to know, their background, and their knowledge of the product. Once you think like a user, you can write content that the users need to know.
Online Help Versus Printed Manuals.
Electronic manuals and printed manuals tend to have different characteristics. Printed manuals are intended to be read mostly in sequence, whereas online help usually consists of little chunks of information to be called up from the application when necessary, in addition to longer descriptive sections.
Writing help documentation can be a tricky process. You need to learn to think like a product user not a developer. As the person responsible for writing the help documentation you may well have been involved with your product for a while, and have become very familiar with how it works.