Businesses spend millions creating the best-in-class product that earns them a competitive edge in the market.
However, does building a great product promise exceptional customer experiences or lasting loyalty?
Sometimes the best products fail, and average ones are surprisingly successful!
So, what’s the difference between products that stand out and those that are cold-shouldered?
An online user manual!
A well-written and diligently-designed user manual can make or break the customer experience. By guiding customers at every step, user manuals empower them to make optimal use of your products and address bottlenecks with incredible ease.
In this guide, we will explore user manuals in detail and learn how to create them in simple steps.
What Is a User Manual?
A user manual is a self-help guide that provides customers with step-by-step instructions on how to make the best use of their products and services and overcome the challenges coming along the way.
This document includes standards & guidelines, troubleshooting guides, installation process, disclaimers, and a lot more valuable information that aids customers in solving problems on their own.
With a rich combination of written text and relevant visuals, a user manual ensures customers gain complete clarity of how your products’ function.
Types of User Manuals
There are several types of user manuals. You can go ahead with the one that best fits your business requirements. Let’s look at a few of them.
An instruction manual provides step-by-step instructions on how to install, configure, and use a product. This type of manual usually includes an introduction to the product and the company, the pre-installation process, and the steps to set up the product.
If you want to create an instruction manual, this video will provide all the help you need.
Training manuals are prepared in order to help employees perform tasks and conduct processes with ease. It is a comprehensive document with internal processes explained in detail to ensure employees work with minimum confusion.
Training manuals are tremendously helpful during employee onboarding, as they help new hires get up to speed quickly with your company’s work processes.
Additionally, employees can also use a training manual for upskilling and staying up to date with the latest company developments
A service manual educates customers about how to maintain your product. It provides straightforward instructions that guide users on the right path and ensure that they don’t get stuck in unwanted situations.
For instance, a service manual for a car would include how much oil you need to put in its engine, various electrical parts of your vehicle, and much more.
An operation manual is a guidebook that answers the What, Why, and How of your organization. This document lays down detailed steps to help employees conduct standard business processes with ease. Employees can refer to the operation manual to find the best way to do something, which also steers clear any confusion they may have about a process.
Policy & Procedure Manual
A policy and procedure manual encompasses a set of guidelines and work policies that employees should adhere to. It systematically covers all critical business procedures to ensure hassle-free implementation.
From HR and leave policies to workplace guidelines and remote work processes, this manual covers all essential company information.
Tips To Create an Impressive User Manual
Coming up with a well-written user manual can be tricky. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind while working on your user manual.
Step 1: Keep It Simple and Straightforward
Nothing can frustrate a customer more than a user manual that is filled with technical jargon. The key to creating online how-to guides is to make them as simple and straightforward as you can.
For simplicity, all you have to do is, get basic things right. Keep the paragraphs short and to the point, use numbered lists and bullet points to make your content easy to follow, and add a lot of breathing space to your articles.
You can also include a glossary section at the end of the manual to explain all technical terms used across articles.
Step 2: Make It Easy to Search and Navigate
Searchability and navigation are two crucial elements that can make or break the customer experience.
As a comprehensive platform with multiple pages and articles, it can be a bit time-consuming for end users to go through the entire guide to get a piece of information.
This is why it is important for your user manual guide to be highly searchable and well-structured. A Google-like search system ensures that customers receive the most relevant page and article suggestions that closely match their search queries. This can save a lot of their time.
Your manual’s structure is equally important for customers to have a positive experience. Create a homepage that gives a bird’s eye view of all that your manual contains. A table of contents with topic-relevant sections and subsections neatly arranged is also good to have.
Next, all articles should have a consistent structure, length, and style. Even if your manual is information-heavy, ensure that there is enough breathing space so that customers do not get overwhelmed.
Step 3: Collect Feedback From Customers
Capturing feedback is critical to understanding if your user manual is actually helping customers solve problems.
The easiest way to find that out is with the help of feedback forms and surveys.
When you are working on your guidebook, ensure that you add a feedback form at the bottom of every article. These forms come with a simple Yes/No question – “Did you find the article helpful?”
On answering “No,” a customer is presented with multiple options and a comment box to elaborate on the issue.
You can also add survey forms to your articles. These forms help customers describe the problem in detail and raise tickets for a quick resolution. Watch this video to learn how to add surveys or forms to the best online manual.
Step 4: Blend It With Your Brand
A user manual shouldn’t be all text and no colors. That would be a big turn-off for readers.
Although user manuals are technical documents, they can still be interesting to read only if you customize it the right way. You can use colors, fonts, and themes that suit the manual and go well with your company’s overall branding.
Add your company’s logo and name at the top, use headers and footers for pages, and incorporate themes to amp up the look and feel of your user manual.
When customizing your manual, be minimal in your approach and add only what’s necessary. The design elements you use should look appealing and show your manual as an extension of your brand.
Step 5: Make It Seamlessly Accessible Across Devices
One of the biggest factors that determine user manual success is mobile responsiveness.
The latest research shows that over two-thirds of the world’s population uses mobile phones. Now, this data is enough to realize how crucial it is for your manual to provide an uninterrupted problem-solving experience on mobile devices.
A mobile-friendly user manual lets customers solve problems on the go in real-time, which takes the overall support experience to a whole different level.
How to Create a User Manual?
Now that you know what is needed to create user manual online, follow the steps below to come up with your own:
Know Your Audience
Identifying your audience is the very basic step in creating a user manual. While writing a manual, understand that this document is specifically for customers. Having clarity there will make your journey smooth.
It is essential to have a clear picture of your end users to plan the process in the right direction.
Identify the demographics of your customers, their preferences, purchase behavior, and historical interactions if any. The best source of this information is your support and sales team.
Since they are always at the forefront, interacting with potential and existing customers, they can give you useful insights into your audience. Besides basic information, they can even tell about the challenges customers frequently face, the features they love the most, and those that give them a hard time.
Decide What Content to Add to Your Manual
What’s the primary purpose of a user manual?
As a self-help resource, the best online manuals help customers gain a grasp of your product and fix problems right when they arise. So, you don’t have a choice but to ensure that it covers all the vital information that customers need.
A thumb rule that you must remember is not to assume anything. Think that customers do not know a thing about your product and need complete guidance from scratch.
The product team can give useful insights into the key topics – both simple and advanced – that must be included in the user instruction. They know the product in and out and have the best idea of the information customers will need to put your product to maximum use.
You can also consult the support team to identify customer pain points, frequently asked questions, and recent tickets raised by product users. This will give you more inputs on what content customers need the most when working with your product.
Prepare a Strong Structure for Seamless Experience
Once you have zeroed in on the content to add to your manual, start building a strong structure that can hold all the information together.
Just as a building is likely to collapse without a robust foundation, your manual can fall apart if not supported by a carefully-designed structure.
Create simple and catchy headings for the core topics you wish to cover. Decide the content to be added to each header, and then work on creating relevant subsections.
A home page is another critical element that must be a part of your manual. It will give customers a top-level view of what your manual contains, so they can quickly navigate to the desired page.
At this stage, it’s also essential to figure out the structure you would want for your articles.
How short or lengthy must the paragraphs be?
Should you add bullet points for every topic?
How should the articles end?
Think from all angles and come up with a structure that makes the entire customer experience – hassle-free!
Bring the Best Team On Board
Creating an online manual is a tough task, requiring the cohesive efforts of key knowledge-holders.
A single person cannot shoulder the responsibility of doing justice to the job. Therefore, you will need to put together a dedicated team of subject matter experts who know the product in and out and have the necessary skills to craft impactful content.
With a full-fledged team of experts, you can easily pace up the process while ensuring that reliable, research-backed content goes into your user guide.
So, when you have a team, how to ensure they work in collaboration with zero confusion?
The right user manual software might have a solution.
Modern user manual tools like ProProfs Knowledge Base are well-equipped with a user management system where you can set relevant roles and permissions for members, basis their skill and experience level.
For example, some members can be assigned the role of administrators, some can be appointed contributors, and others can work as editors. Such well-defined responsibilities leave no room for confusion. In fact, this paves the way for better collaboration and productivity.
Here’s a quick video on how teams can collaboratively make manuals.
Power Your Manual With the Right Visuals
Adding visuals can be game-changing.
They have the power to turn even a boring online user manual into an engaging problem-solving platform that customers love to use.
So, how do visuals work?
You can add them at various points in your manual. For example, when talking about a product feature, use screenshots to show how it looks. When explaining a process, use images at every step to give a hands-on demonstration.
Bite-sized videos are great for pointing customers in the right direction. You can add them to give a quick illustration of how a particular feature works and the results it gives.
You can also add how-to videos to explain processes in detail, so customers can understand how to put your product to best use.
Proofread Your Manual to Ensure Accuracy
By publishing a manual without proofreading it, you put your company’s credibility and hard-earned image at stake.
Customers do not expect anything coming from you to be erroneous. And if that happens, they will always take the information you provide with a pinch of salt.
Something as simple as proofreading can work wonders.
Every time an article gets ready, ensure that it passes through a rigorous review process where multiple editors work together to find and fix errors before the manual is sent for publication.
Some of the top user guide software offer this functionality. They help you set workflow statuses, so there is transparency with regard to the stage of every article. Editors can quickly pick up the written pieces and get them ready for the final publication.
Measure KPIs to Boost Your Manual’s Performance
Creating a manual is a continuous, ever-evolving process.
Even after you are done doing all the hard work of writing, editing, and reviewing content, there is still a lot that needs to be done.
How do you know if your manual is really helpful for customers?
Are customers able to solve problems quickly?
Are the articles up to par with regard to what customers expect?
Does your manual incorporate all recent product developments?
These are some critical questions that draw light on how important it is to closely monitor your manual’s performance from time to time.
KPIs such as article upvotes, downvotes, and failed searches can spot the light on what’s working and what’s not working in your online user manual. Harnessing these insights can aid the improvement process and keep your manual updated.
Here’s a quick video on how you can track these KPIs.
Top Technical Writing Tools for Creating User Manuals
Still on the fence regarding how to go about this process? Worry not! Here is a list of 5 top tools that will help you create an online guide in minutes.
ProProfs knowledge base software is packed with advanced features that help you build a compelling user manual in minutes. The software is quite straightforward, user-friendly, and easy to use. You can make use of this tool to create, edit, design, and publish your content.
It helps you create an online help documentation inclusive of images, videos, screenshots, and more, all in one space. You can, in fact, import or export existing documents and assign different permissions and roles to users and groups for collaborative authoring.
In addition to that, ProProfs is also easy on the pocket and offers an amazing collection of templates to choose from, which are also customizable.
Document360 is a knowledge base software that helps large teams work together with a secured login. This tool helps you customize and organize your manual at six different levels of categories and subcategories and even change the order of these levels according to your needs.
This software is also mobile-friendly and, therefore, can be accessed from anywhere, anytime. Also, creating your manual with Document360 allows you to check the previous version of edits on your document and restore them if needed.
If your company needs to create long-form content, then this is the right software for you. Over the years, Adobe has offered many products for different tasks, such as photo editing. When it comes to creating content like user manuals, they have FrameMaker.
People have used it over the years to create tightly-structured content. It offers a huge set of templates with designs, fonts, and colors that can also be customized according to your needs.
In addition to that, with Adobe FrameMaker, you also get the option of saving your content in various formats, such as PDF, HTML5, output for Kindle devices, and more.
Paligo is a Component Content Management System (CCMS) that aims at making teamwork and collaboration easy. By using Paligo, your team can work together on a single piece of content over a cloud platform.
Additionally, Paligo works in XML format rather than HTML, which makes it more flexible and provides customers with better-structured content. This all-in-one platform has a lot of basic and advanced tools for you to use and generate your technical content with ease.
On this platform, you can take advantage of content management, publishing, commenting, authoring, branching, and a lot more, with its professional subscription starting at
Ever since Markdown was introduced to the market in 2004, it has gathered the attention of many. Initially, it provided people with a platform to form simple word documents, but with time, it added more features to provide enhanced experiences.
Today, you can write, edit, and comment, create to-do lists, take notes, and do so much more. The tool operates in a very simple syntax. Once you generate that on the tool, you can go to Notepad and export your Markdown syntax to generate your content. This way, you can have a user manual ready quickly and more efficiently.
With so many options available, you might need some assistance making the right decision. Watch this video to learn how to choose the best software to create a user manual.
Read More: 11 Best Online User Manual Tools for 2022
Create a User Manual to Delight Your Customers
Creating a user manual is essential to avoid confusion in a customer’s mind. By putting the right content all under one roof, you can ensure that you have more delightful consumers.
In order to create the best manual online, you should keep a few things in mind. Knowing your audience, taking their feedback, understanding what they want, and making your manual engaging are some of the key steps that can help you in the process.
Your manual should explain steps clearly, so customers can use your product effectively and solve problems independently. This way, you can have a satisfied customer base.
A tool like the ProProfs knowledge base can work like a charm in this journey. It is well-equipped with top-notch features that aid the process of content creation, design, and publication from start to end.
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