4 Ways to Avoid Creating Boring User Manuals

During their regular course of work, a lot of companies reach the point when they have to give their customers valuable documents that help them go through a certain process, or gives them the knowledge they need to do something that they couldn’t before. User manuals could explain how you can use a product, how to put it together or something else.

Good writing skills are quite useful in the business world in general, but they are absolutely crucial when it comes to manuals. If a user manual doesn’t have all the important details and steps written down clearly, people will not understand them and they will quickly get bored.

If people get bored while reading your online user manual, they will either leave it or not pay attention to what they are reading. Either way, people won’t learn how to do things correctly. To avoid this, you will have to make your user manuals engaging to readers and here is how you can do it.

1. Try to Put Yourself in the Reader’s Shoes While Creating User Manuels

The first thing you need to do is clear your head. Sure, you know everything that you will be explaining inside and out, but the people reading the manual don’t know anything about it. You will have to make a conscious effort and approach the whole thing from a different perspective.

The approach you take should be in line with the perspective of the people who will be reading your user manual to learn something new. You should try and start from square one, and you should keep in mind that the audience you will be addressing knows nothing about the subject at hand.

This is how you will be able to create content which is relevant to them. If you are having difficulties, you can contact a person who has just used your product for the first time and ask them questions about what is unclear and what they’ve had troubles with. This way you will be able to understand where they are coming from.

2. Make User Manuals Simple and Understandable

Your writing style needs to be simple and adjusted to your target audience so that everyone can understand your user manual and not get drowned in large sentences and exhausting information that is not really relevant to them. Clear out the clutter in your sentences and try to use as few words as possible to explain something clearly.

Readers want to get the information quickly and get on with it; they don’t want to admire your writing skills. Use simple words that everyone can understand. Create lists with steps and instructions that can clearly show what needs to be done.

4 Basic tips you should follow when writing your user manual. Guest Post by Robin Singh via PVAriel.com Click To Tweet

Additionally, with lists people can move between different items step by step, allowing them to focus on small parts and not get overwhelmed by all of the information. When something is written in a complicated way, it might make the task at hand look much more difficult than it really is.

On top of that, it is also a good idea to put a table of contents in your user manual, so that people can find the exact things they are looking for within seconds. This will further enhance the user experience and allow people to adopt a simple step-by-step approach.

So, before writing your user manual you need to define what it will be explaining. This is essential, if you know your goal, you will know which things need to be mentioned to help people achieve that goal. This is how you will avoid talking about things that aren’t really necessary.

3. Use Visuals as Well

Textual content is good for explaining certain things, but it can be exhausting and make people inpatient or break their concentration. In order to stir things up and engage your readers, you will also have to add visuals to your user manual. Simply put, when a person opens up a manual with long walls of text, he or she will instantly feel discouraged and get annoyed with what’s in front of them.

By implementing various images, screenshots, videos, diagrams or even infographics, you will instantly make your manual more appealing and make it easier for readers to understand it. You should make sure that the formatting of all your visuals and text is consistent so that you don’t overwhelm your readers. Visuals can simply be more fun than text, especially today, when most people prefer watching video over reading.

On top of that, visuals can help explain complex points more easily. For example, explaining certain actions that a user needs to perform with their hands requires long lines of text, but just one simple image or illustration can make it instantly clear to the consumers what they need to do.

4.  Make it all about the reader

What does this actually mean? It means that you should be using an active voice that focuses on your readers. This kind of writing style can be understood more easily and read quicker, as it makes the verb and the subject very clear in all sentences. You should make sure that the majority of your document is written in this voice.

A passive voice, on the other hand, is when the object being acted upon by an unknown source is given the role of the subject. For example, a passive sentence would be “The tools that are needed to assemble this chair include screws and a hammer”, while the active version of this sentence would be “in order to assemble this chair, you will need screws and a hammer”.

Sentences that use an active voice instantly tell the readers that they are the ones who need to perform a certain action to get the job done. This way your manual will be more direct, concise and clear to readers.

These are the four basic tips you should follow when writing your user manual. Just make sure that you learn a lot about your target audience before you start creating your help documentation so that you can always have a good perspective of who you are addressing.

 

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by Robin Singh

Robin is a Technical Support Executive. He is an expert in knowledge management and various Knowledge base tools. Currently, he is a resident knowledge management expert at ProProfs. In his free time, Robin enjoys reading and traveling.

4 comments

  1. I agree with every single word you said in the article. In order to create an engaging article, you have to think like your audience what are the problems they would be struggling right now?

    I see people write content that has nothing to do with their audience, sometimes even they don’t justify the title of their article and later ask in forums or in other communities why people are not coming to their site.

    As you mentioned, writing readable simple and understanding user manuals are the main point here. That will serve the purpose of the users.
    Thanks Robin for sharing this informative piece on Philipscom.

    – Umesh Singh

  2. Hi,

    I have seen the boring user manual on various sites and that made me quit my visit right away. A creative user manual is the key to make the reader stay on the site for a long time.

    I always believe in delivering what your readers are already interested in. The main focus should not just on writing content but to produce the engaging content that is helpful and have the potential to go viral.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. User manuals are important but mostly overlooked because of the vogue language. User manuals provide all the necessary information about that item. It should cover all the necessary details but at the same time, it should not be boring. Explanatory figures should be added wherever necessary. They should be simple and easy to understand so that they should fit the purpose and readable by people. You have covered all these points in details.

    Well researched and informative article 🙂

    Cheers!

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