Monday, 29 October 2012

A Good User Manual: How Should It Be Written?

If you have ever bought home appliances or other things, such as toys, baby accessories, sports products, vehicles etc., then you definitely know what a user manual is and how it looks like. But how often do you make use of these documents? Do you know where to look for them in your house? Or, maybe, you have thrown them away right after the purchase? If so, then it is not a problem anymore, because there are lots of websites that enlist hundreds of user guides with regard to the type of the product, its characteristics, application options, manufacturer, brand etc.

What Is a User Manual?

A user manual is a document, which provides the most important information about a product. As a rule, it involves general facts about a product, its characteristics, safety precautions and guidelines on how to assemble and use it in the most effective and safe way. User guides that come with the same types of products may differ a lot from each other. This means that if your old vacuum cleaner has gone out of order and you decide to opt for a new one, for example, you should not underestimate the importance of reading the manual just because you have already vacuumed your carpets dozens of times. Each model or brand may feature diverse characteristics you may not know about. That is why it makes sense to study these documents properly to avoid the potential problems or even health risks.

How Should a Good User Manual Be Written?

As a rule, user guides are written by technical writers, who possess the required skills and experience in this business. These people should not only know the subject they are writing about, but they also should be trained to provide the material in the most understandable way. This is because these documents are read and used by ordinary customers, who are frequently not aware of technical terms and specifications. The text of a user guide should be subdivided into several sections with regard to the topic discussed. These sections should involve the following parts:

• Introduction

• General description of a product

• Characteristics

• Special features, which differ it from other similar products

• Product uses

• Safety precautions

• Description of the potential problems and ways of solving them

• Other related info

Each part of a user manual should be written in a simple and understandable language. The sentences should not be too long so that a user could easily understand what is meant there. Apart from that, a writer should identify the target audience to know what writing style to stick to. Sometimes, technical writers working at these documents, should address several audience types, including the users, the consultants, the repair specialists etc. This means that a guide should also provide specific technical details and characteristics, which should be taken into account if a device goes out of order, for instance. With that said, a technical writer should be skillful enough to make information clear and understandable for different categories of people, who will read it.

By the way, reputable manufacturers, who take care of the needs and requirements of their customers, aim at providing detailed and informative user manuals. They understand that their clients' time is a priority and try their best effort to make these documents readable and useful for everyone. Such manuals generally consist of dozens of pages, which is a benefit in itself. Having such a document at hand will make you feel safe and confident in any situation.

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