The Ultimate Guide to User-Friendly Manuals

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Ferry Vermeulen, Instrktiv

Do you write user manuals or technical documentation? Do you often hear people emphasizing the importance of their user-friendliness?

But you hear it so often, that you actually do not know where to start looking for information about how to write user-friendly manuals yourself?

User-friendliness in technical documentation is becoming more and more important. Also the user experience of products’ instructions is considered an important part of the customer journey.

Over the next several months, I will provide an overview of the main topics to think of when writing user-friendly documentation. Below we look at how to write a manual for your audience and how to write a manual that really solves problems.

How to write a manual for your audience

It is important that information on your product be communicated to the user accurately and effectively. Each group of users has its own characteristics, and it’s important to take account of these when writing a manual. A seasoned end user of an emergency-call system has different requirements from someone who’s installing modular pontoon systems. The following links will provide you more insights into your audience.

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How to write a manual that really solves problems

Because users want to get things done and because they do make mistakes while performing tasks, a predominance of trouble-shooting information in operating or maintenance manuals is recommended. The main rule here is first to help users avoid making mistakes by using short and simple sentences, signaling action information clearly, and minimizing jargon. Furthermore, to master error-handling, it is recommended to help the user recognize there is an error (detection), understand what happened (diagnosis), and how to recover (recovery). The following links will provide you more insight in writing clear error recognition and trouble-shooting information.

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