Why Printed Instruction Manuals Are Still Relevant
In today’s digital age it is easy to assume that printed instruction manuals are outdated and irrelevant. Instruction manual printing, however, is still very useful and relevant, especially for certain markets such as hardware products like washing machines, cars, office equipment, furniture, and the like! Whilst online manuals and videos have their role to play, this does not negate the value and importance of manual printing – many product users are more comfortable and familiar with printed instruction manuals that they can lay on a flat surface and read whilst following the instructions.
Printed instruction manuals also provide a portable and flexible user guide – if you are working in an area with poor internet access or outdoors with restricted power access, then printed instructions can prove a real bonus!
Here are some tips on producing effective instructional manuals:
User manuals are very helpful
Instruction, or “user”, manuals are important documents that act as a guide for your customers to get the correct and most effective use of your product or service. They provide a “step-by-step” explanation of how your product operates from start to finish and offers help in overcoming any problems your customer may encounter when using that product.
Pay attention to your title and content
An eye-catching title is helpful – something short but that conveys what the manual contains. It is important to remember that your instruction manual is a business tool in itself – it is not a document for “leisure reading” or for entertainment – it is a working tool and reference guide for a specific set of circumstances. The instruction manual must work as a complete document, but also be easy to identify and reference specific sections as customers are rarely going to read the manual in its’ entirety from start to finish – they are far more likely to seek out the specific topic they are dealing with at the time and read the instruction and information on that aspect alone.
Consider and plan the content of your instruction manual from the outset – ensure you know exactly what your user manual needs to include and cover and compile beforehand all the information, processes, and checklists that the manual will contain. Try to put yourself in the place of your end-user or customer and think what they will need to see and in what format and language. Assume that all your readers will have no knowledge at all about your product and present your instructions in the easiest, most understandable terms for them to follow.
Keep your manual clear and concise
Remember that the aim of your instruction manual is to help users complete tasks and solve problems, so keep the instructions as clear, concise and easy to follow as possible. Using numbered lists for your instructions will help add structure and help transmit clear guidance in a point-to-point format for your customers. A table of contents will provide quicker and clearer navigation of your manual and will help direct people to the specific section a customer may need to access at any given time.
Include images that act as visual aids
Instruction manuals are unlikely to be the most exciting read for anyone, so try to enliven the text-heavy content with some visual aids. Include images where possible and relevant – visual instruction can often be more effective than text alone!
Get a test group before publishing
Before releasing your completed instruction manual to your users, ensure that you’ve got it right! Instruction manuals play a crucial role in aiding your customers to understand and effectively use your product so ensure it is thoroughly tested for every eventuality at every step of the process. Get work colleagues and other people who are unfamiliar with the product to try the manuals’ instructions and to feedback on the content, ease of use and comfort of the user manual. Take note of any comments and suggestions from these tests and, where relevant, review the manual’s content for ways to improve or make the manual more effective.
Speak to your professional print company about your instruction manual printing – their knowledgeable staff will be able to advise you on the design, layout, and format aspects of your company’s manual printing.
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