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How to Create an Online User Manual: A Detailed Guide

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? 

Not necessarily!

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. 

Let’s go!

What Is a User Manual?  

An online user manual is a one-stop platform where customers can find all product or service-related information in seconds. Comprising detailed articles, how-to videos, and FAQs, this manual lends a helping hand to customers every time they encounter challenges.

Using step-by-step instructions, a user manual guides customers on how to work with your product and fix problems to achieve favorable results.

Types of User Manuals 

There are different types of user manual guides you can consider creating. Let’s look at a few of them below: 

1. Technical Manual

A technical manual is meant to sweep away all confusion related to a product’s technicalities. It simplifies complex concepts and provides easy troubleshooting tips to help customers make the most of your products.  

Read more: How to write a Technical Manual

2. Instruction Manual

The best part about an instruction manual is that it encapsulates the entire functionality of a product in easy-to-consume steps. Customers can refer to the steps and use the product efficiently.  

Read More: How to write Instruction Manual

3. Operations Manual

The purpose of an operations manual is to guide your internal teams on different processes related to product development, service delivery, customer support, and many others.  

Read More: How to create Operation Manual

4. Policy & Procedure Manual

This is another manual that can prove highly effective. It holistically covers all policies, procedures, and protocols that are followed to execute crucial business processes. 

How to Create a User Manual That Helps Customers Make the Most of Your Products

As a business that keeps customers front and center, creating a user manual can work like a charm. By making problem-solving a breeze, a user manual can significantly boost customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. 

Here are some simple and effective steps that will help you kickstart the process on the right note:

Step 1: Decide What Content to Add to Your Manual 

What’s the sole purpose of a user manual? 

As a self-help resource, a user manual helps 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 manual. 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. 

Step 2: Prepare a Strong Structure for a Seamless Experience 

Once you have zeroed in on the content to add to your manual, start working on 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 heading, 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!

Step 3: Bring the Best Team on Board

Creating manuals 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. 

Step 4: Power Your Manual by Using the Right Visuals in the Right Places

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 gain complete clarity on how to put your product to best use. 

Step 5: Proofread the 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 pieces that are written and get them ready for the final publication.

Step 6: Measure KPIs to Improve 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. 

How to Choose a User Manual Tool That Works Well for Your Business

Getting your hands on the right user manual tool requires rigorous research. As the market is awash with thousands of tools, each promising a stellar experience, selecting one can be pretty challenging. 

Don’t worry, as we are in this together. 

Let’s look at some crucial elements that you should consider when choosing user manual software: 

1. Ease of Use:

Ensure that the tool has an intuitive interface and fuss-free implementation. It should be beginner-friendly and require zero coding knowledge to set up. 

2. Core Features:

The user manual software you choose should comprise all necessary features, such as a rich help authoring system, built-in reports, customization, expert-designed templates, and external integrations. 

3. Pricing:

Go for a tool that offers unparalleled value for money and doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket. The pricing should be honest, with no hidden charges. 

4. Trial Version:

This is another vital aspect of a user manual tool. Trial versions are best for taking a test drive before putting your hard-earned money on the table.

It’s Time to Get Started 

Finally, we are at a stage where the basics are clear, and implementation needs to be prioritized. 

Since a user manual is a customer-facing document, every inch of it should exude positivity and excellence. 

When writing manuals, be careful about the tone and structure of the content. Try to keep a friendly yet professional tone and a straightforward structure to ensure the entire customer experience is nothing but exemplary. 

Additionally, you must also figure out the content to be added right at the beginning and adopt a rigorous review process to build a flawless manual. 

These simple steps, combined with bespoke user manual software, can give wings to the entire process, promising rocking results. 

If you are wondering which online user manual creator to go for, we can promise ProProfs is going to be the right choice for you. It is simple, feature-rich, and comes at a competitive price. 

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About the author

Brayn is a knowledge management expert. He has been published in CustomerThink, PointVisible and Apruve. As a customer support specialist at ProProfs, Brayn has been instrumental in building a robust knowledge base and documents that help support executives keep every customer delighted. You can catch up with Brayn on Twitter and LinkedIn.