What is a Technical Manual – The Ultimate Guide

What is technical manual and how to write it Easily

What image comes up in your mind, as soon as you hear or see the word technical manual?

Probably, an endless, boring, complex, and lackluster written set of instructions that are meant for those with technical knowledge. 

Well, it’s nothing of that sort. In fact, a technical manual is completely online. It is targeted towards customers, who most of the time, have little to no knowledge about what happens behind the curtains, with regards to a product. 

Unlike some time back when manuals were paper-based, today, technical manuals have got a digital makeover, thanks to the influx of technology. And, it’s in the best interests of both companies and their customers. 

A majority of organizations now prefer the online route of building manuals. It’s eco-friendly, convenient, cost-effective, and, most importantly, preferred by always on-the-go and technologically-forward customers. 

Let’s take an in-depth look at what is a technical manual, the role it plays, and how you can create one:

Technical Manual Explained

Technical Manual – according to Business Dictionary, is defined as a document containing instructions for installation, operation, use, maintenance, parts list, support, and training requirements for the effective deployment of equipment, machine, process, or system.

Think of it as a centralized online platform that customers can browse to find answers to any questions they have regarding your product or service.     

If you talk about technical manuals existing ten years ago, they were lengthy and inadequate for customer support. This is for the simple reason that reading a 20-page black, and white document is: 

  • Time-consuming 
  • Frustrating

And, doesn’t provide the satisfaction customers seek. That’s the reason customers used to flock to companies directly to get queries resolved, or call the support staff, no matter how long they had to wait. 

Fast-forward to 2020, and you can see how things have changed massively. 

Online technical manuals are now seen as a core business asset, with organizations moving their business online. They have realized that web-based manuals play a strategic role in the growth of their business. 

Technical Manual – A Choice or a Prerequisite?

Looking at today’s scenario, creating a technical manual is a necessity. It’s indispensable for business growth. 

Don’t think of a manual as merely a how-to guide. The definition has undergone various transformations, and now technical manuals have evolved and gone mainstream as far as business growth is concerned.

Here’s a look at why a technical user guide is a prerequisite for your business. 

1. It’s Economical 

Being a cloud-based tool, a technical manual offers endless possibilities. Why do you think firms like Samsung, Dell, Apple, and the like have such comprehensive documentation for customers on their websites?

Is it only about support? Definitely not. It’s about keeping prospects and customers engaged and providing them whatever they need in a blink. 

The ultimate goal is to cut down the support costs. Having a call center for resolving queries means you have to bear the cost of not just the infrastructure, but a huge support team as well. Clearly, it’s heavy on the budget and doesn’t make sense, at a time when customers’ behavior is changing. 

Did you know that Pizza Hut had shut down its entire call center four years back, in 2016, because the ordering and delivery system moved online? 

With customer service morphing into self-service, more and more organizations today are embracing technical manuals to meet the changing demands of customers and craft excellent experiences for them.

2. Self-Help Is In

The online ecosystem has made customers impatient and lethargic. 

Have a question, Google it. Want a pizza? Order it. Need new clothes? Head to Amazon. 

Name anything, and there will be a solution for it online. As of 2017, 79% of U.S. customers used a self-service portal, and this number is gradually growing. Compared to self-help portals, emailing or calling a customer support representative, looks like an uphill task. 

Why will your customers talk to your product expert, when they can simply go through your online technical manual to troubleshoot a problem?

3. Converting Prospects Into Paying Customers Gets Easier

A technical user manual, by default, is meant for customer support, but no rulebook says you cannot experiment with it. 

Think of the technical manual as an investment, majorly because it is immensely effective in attracting prospects, keeping them engaged, and convincing them to buy your product or subscribe to your service. 

Consider this hypothetical situation- 

A person facing trouble with a product writes the question online, and bumps into your technical manual, on the first page of search results. 

He or she browses through it, gets a step-by-step solution to the problem, and is able to resolve the issue. Sometimes, one good experience leads to another. So there’s a high probability that the person will check out your website to see your suite of offerings, and if interested, might go for a product or service. 

And even if the person doesn’t buy from you, the experience you provided will be etched in his mind, and that experience can lead to a sale in the future. 

There’s always a chance, and a technical user manual, helps you grab that chance, though in an indirect way.

4. Support Staff Becomes More Competent and Confident

A technical user guide plays the dual role of serving customers as well as your support staff.

Finding information dispersed across various folders is time-consuming and taxing. So while a rep is on a call, there is no leverage of keeping the customer on hold and finding the folder that has the required information. If this happens, it’s likely to frustrate both the rep and the customer. 

A technical manual helps you avoid this easily. Reps can use the manual to find information, every time they are on a call or responding to a customer’s email. What you get is – 

  • A shorter and more meaningful conversation with customers 
  • Low issue resolution time 
  • Delighted customers

Your business success clearly hinges on how well you leverage your technical manual to attract prospects, serve your customers, and keep them delighted. 

Ready to build a technical manual? Read on to know how you can do so with technical manual software. 

How to Create a Compelling Technical Manual?

A powerful technical manual tool can make the process of creating a manual extremely easy, with the guarantee that the results will be amazing. 

Here is a step-by-step guide to building an impressive technical manual in minutes:

#1 Pick a Template

The very first thing you need to do to create a technical manual is – choose the right manual template. Templates work great, especially for those who need a ready-made structure to put content right away.Best Technical Manual Template Example

Templates provide you a well-structured framework with a dummy content. You can simply replace it and add new articles. 

Here’s a sample template for your reference.

#2 Write Content With Online Editor 

Once you have chosen the template, the next step is to write content. A robust technical manual software offers an MS Word-like editor that comes with basic as well as advanced formatting options. WYSIWYG Editor

You can quickly write content, style, and customize it to suit your branding. There are over 600 fonts you can choose from. Also, you can add categories, and sub-categories, include a table of contents and give a proper structure to your technical manual.

#3 Add Multimedia

A technical user guide is incomplete with the right images and videos to support the content. So, make sure that you add images, infographics, and videos to make the manual engaging and interesting for your customers.

If you have to use a particular image or video multiple times in the manual, a better idea would be to first upload all your files in the file manager and then directly add images and videos to your technical user manual.  

#4 Import Files

There is a possibility that you already have a lot of content scattered across various files. Writing the same thing again from scratch will waste a lot of time. Using the technical manual software, you can import existing content from word docs, PDFs, and PPTs, right into your manual.

Import files right into your technical manual

This content will be converted into meaningful articles and will pace up the process of content creation. Besides, you can also import content from other help authoring tools such as RoboHelp, FrameMaker, or even your website. 

#5 Blend it with Your Brand

Your technical manual should speak volumes about your brand. That’s because, even before customers start using your product, it’s the manual that they will be going through to get the hang of things. 

What if your manual’s branding is inconsistent, and it doesn’t have your brand name and logo? It will then fail to establish a connection with customers. Merely solving a problem isn’t the goal of a technical manual. The objective is also to elevate your visibility and attain top-of-the-mind brand recall; which is possible when your manual aligns well with your brand.Branding and Customization

So, make sure you add your firm’s logo and brand name, use the right themes, colors, and designs to customize your technical manual. 

#6 Set Workflows

Keeping track of multiple articles at the same time can be taxing and confusing. There is a high possibility that some of the content might not go through a review and directly get published. 

Workflows provide the best way to avoid this. They help you set the status for your articles, making it crystal clear as to what stage your article is at. 

Set workflow for technical manual

For instance, you can set the status of an article as Draft, In Progress, Under Review, or Published. There is also the option to set custom status. So, if your article is going through the 5th review, you can write its status as ‘Under 5th Review’ – something of that sort. 

This makes it easier to monitor articles and ensures that only high quality, reviewed content goes live. 

#6 Identify Improvement Areas

How do you know what your customers are searching for, and whether they get the answers they seek, every time they run a search? 

With the help of insightful reports offered by a smart technical manual tool, you can easily evaluate the performance of your content. 

Reports give you actionable insights into:

  • Article health
  • Author activity
  • Technical manual statistics

In a nutshell, reports help you identify: 

  • Popular as well as poorly rated articles
  • Successful and failed searches
  • Keywords that failed to yield results
  • Total number of searches
  • New articles created by authors
  • Broken links, and much more. 

This treasure trove of information is instrumental in helping you update the content that’s not working, add new articles for keywords that are being frequently searched, improve existing content, and much more. 

Watch this video to understand how to analyze your knowledge base reports-

#7 Publish Across Various Platforms

Since customers use a variety of platforms to access information, it’s paramount for your user manual to work smoothly on mobile phones, tablets, as well as laptops. 

Publish Technical Manual Across Various Platforms

A robust technical manual tool allows you to publish content on the web or even mobile instantly. It can also be used as an ebook, downloaded as PDF, or even used in print form. So whichever platform your customers prefer, they can use it to access your technical manual. 

Do’s and Don’ts to Remember

There are certain things you need to keep in mind while creating a technical manual. Take a glance at a few of them. 

Do’s Don’ts
  • Keep your technical manual easy to understand.
  • Explain complicated terms and concepts using tooltips, lightboxes, and popups.
  • Structure the content well for easy navigation
  • Cross-link relevant articles to provide an uninterrupted search experience to customers
  • Sprinkle relevant keywords across the content to make it SEO-friendly
  • A text-only manual is a big NO
  • Ensure that articles are not repeated
  • Do not overstuff it with keywords simply to get a ranking on search engines
  • Avoid long sentences and paragraphs
  • Be careful with branding. Inconsistent branding is not advised.

That’s all for now!

Have more questions around what is a technical user guide and how you can create one? 

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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.