How to Create a User Manual: Best Practices for Work Instructions
Unclear work instructions are extremely frustrating for both companies and end-users, and end up creating far more problems than they actually solve. Far too often, traditional paper user manuals are:
👎🏻 Difficult to understand
👎🏻 Too technical
👎🏻 Not at hand when needed
👎🏻 Difficult to edit and impossible to track
👎🏻 Not focusing on the problems you want to solve
Nobody wants that.
That’s why we’re unveiling our favorite best practices on how to create a truly user-friendly work instruction.
1. Focus on visuals
The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. So, our first best practice is to use visuals whenever possible in your work instructions. This is done best with static images, gifs, illustrations, or animations. If you combine crystal-clear images with short, to-the-point text, the information in the user manual will be even quicker to process and easier to understand.
2. Be specific
Focusing on clarity and simplicity is key in creating a good work instruction. Be as specific as possible and don’t make assumptions about what your end-users know and don’t know. Always use the same words when describing something, and keep the number of words and jargon to a minimum. Sentences should be easy to understand and to-the-point. Visuals should have the correct level of detail and include movement and a model if possible.
3. Step-by-step approach
A simplified step-by-step approach helps with clarity and allows the end-user to swipe through the work instruction at their own pace. Step-by-step work instructions increase the likelihood of people actually reading (and understanding) what to do and how to do it. Nobody will read a confusing 784-page work instruction with only text. A clear step-by-step instruction is far more effective and helps the user actually achieve a task.
4. Focus on the task
A typical issue with traditional work instructions is that they focus on the product and not the problem that needs solving. With our philosophy of Outside-In Instructional Design, we shift the focus from the product description to the more action-oriented process of how to actually perform a task, told from the end-user’s perspective. Creating a good work instruction begins with understanding the needs of the end-user.
5. Accessibility is key
Consider publishing your work instruction in a digital format instead of printing on paper. Sharing your work instruction with your end-users in a digital format through QR codes, direct links, and embedding on your website or app allows them to access your instructions on any device whenever they need them.
Now you know how to create a work instruction based on some of our best practices. You can always contact us and we’ll tell you more about what the SwipeGuide instruction software can offer your company.