Documentation

Benefits of Instruction Manuals: Why You Need Them & 8 Best Practices

Instruction manuals are a single reference point for users. Use them to build user love and strengthen your product. Here are some major benefits of instruction manuals

Introduction

Creating an instruction manual is like assembling furniture — it takes time and effort. But once you get the hang of things, the whole process gets easier, provided you have the right guidance. 

If you’re wondering whether an instruction manual is worth the investment, the answer is yes. 

Without it, your users will feel lost. They won’t be able to use your product effectively, leading to a bad post-purchase experience. We all know what that means — high churn rates, increasing marketing spend and a frantic sales team trying to make up for it all.  

Instruction manuals are a single reference point for users who need to know how to use your product and overcome potential setbacks. So, if you aren’t providing a user manual with your product, it’s time to reconsider. 

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the various benefits of using an instruction manual. We also have a bonus section that takes you through best practices to consider while creating one of your own.

Let’s get started!

Benefits of creating an instruction manual

While developing an instruction manual, you’re bound to run into hurdles. These manuals are lengthy and comprehensive, which means they aren’t easy to craft. Additionally, you’ll have to keep updating your manual as your product gets new features. It’s not a one-time undertaking. 

All things considered, the pros outweigh the cons. Here are four reasons why you need an instruction manual to give your users with the best experience. 

Reduces the workload of support teams

If you want to reduce churn and provide a seamless post-purchase experience for your customers, you need to up your customer service game. Unfortunately, this is difficult when your support teams are overwhelmed with a slew of unhappy and confused customers. 

Instruction manuals help users solve problems on their own without consulting a customer service rep. This gives those employees more time to focus on high-value tasks that directly affect business growth — instead of being bogged down with millions of support requests. 

Saves time 

With an instruction manual, your users can solve common problems with a mere flick of the page. No more automated calls, redirections to customer service executives or sitting on hold for hours on end. This saves time and energy, allowing them to focus on using your product. 

High customer retention

A great post-purchase experience will delight your customers and have them coming back for more. By giving users an instruction manual, you can guide them through commonly faced issues and offer better customer service, leading to (you guessed it) higher retention. 

Higher conversion rates

A smooth customer onboarding experience drastically increases the chances of whether they like your product and can even push them to purchase a plan. They may talk to other users or put up testimonials on social media too, which will boost brand awareness and eventually lead to more conversions. 

8 best practices while creating instruction manuals: 

The prospect of creating a lengthy instruction manual might sound daunting. Especially if you haven’t done it before. 

But we’ve got you covered. Here are a few best practices to help you along the way.   

1. Write in an active voice

Ask any writing coach or editor, and they’ll tell you to always write in an active voice. This gives you short and snappy sentences, which can improve the overall readability of your instruction manual. Let’s look at an example: 

  • Passive voice: After the button is pressed, wait for two minutes 
  • Active voice: After you press the button, wait for two minutes

See how the sentence that uses passive voice seems detached, hard to read and a little awkward?

By using an active voice, your instructions sound clearer. More cohesive. And this makes it easier for your users to learn and understand.  

2. Be descriptive

If you want to efficiently explain how your product works, don’t shroud your content in mystery. Explain everything in detail — even seemingly insignificant bits. You don’t want to leave readers guessing. 

Instead of using an abbreviation, spell out the whole word. If you’re telling readers which wire to remove, don’t forget to mention where they can find this wire. There’s a huge difference between “remove the red wire” and “remove the red wire that is located at the bottom of your device.”

 Keep expanding your sentences. Add enough details. 

3. Include relevant visuals

Using text without visuals just doesn’t cut it for the modern reader. Our brains process images much quicker, demonstrating how important the multimedia aspect of your instruction manual is. 

Make sure to include diagrams of your product and label them clearly. After all, content with visuals are easier to remember. 

While choosing your visuals, try to go for something eye-catching so it captivates readers and entices them to read through the text. 

benefits of instruction manuals
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If you’re documenting an online process, screenshots are the way to go. Take advantage of tools like Scribe to auto-generate step-by-step guides — complete with text and annotated screenshots! 

Here’s a Scribe in action. And it only took two minutes to make!

4. Verify accuracy

Make sure your document has all the right information. Users who come across inaccurate instructions are bound to lose trust in your manual and product. So double-check everything. Triple-check if you have to. 

Don’t forget to get the input of developers and SMEs on your team. Ask them to quality check the document to see whether it’s up to par. If they’re hesitant, ask your team lead to formalize the process and allocate a separate time in their schedule to complete this task. 

5. Follow a style guide

A style guide is a document with all the information on how to present your brand to users in terms of graphics and language. It defines your tone of voice, brand colors, formatting style and typography.

Using a style guide can help you keep a tight reign on your brand’s consistency. — which improves top-of-mind recall and customer loyalty. Divide your style guide into two parts — visual and editorial. Then cross-check whether your instruction manual meets the guidelines laid out. If it doesn’t, edit it and repeat the process. 

Here’s what a style guide looks like.

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6. Use a template 

There are several paid and free templates you can find online for your product. They come with an overview, a generic introduction and purpose, and a space for instructions and contact information. 

Simply run a quick Google search to browse and download templates that match your needs. Or check out the Scribe Gallery to see some top training manuals created using Scribe Pages

Pages are process docs where you can add Scribes (step-by-step guides), text, video and more. 

Once you find a template you like, go ahead and tweak it to match your needs. Then share it with your team to keep things consistent. 

7. Include tips and warnings

Safety instructions, product tips and high-risk warnings are essential components of instruction manuals. 

Back up all of your warnings with precautions your users can follow. This will help customers safely use your product, guaranteeing you won’t run into any legal issues down the line. 

Depending on the risk factor involved, you can also add bold colors like red, yellow and orange to highlight your warnings. Use exclamation marks in the headings and keep letters in all caps. To SHOW THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WARNING!

8. Automate the process 

As you can see, writing an instruction manual is a long process that requires you to invest a lot of creative juices and energy. 

Wouldn’t your time be better spent on other business processes like business development and market research? Although creating an instruction manual is non-negotiable, there are several ways to make things quicker and more convenient. 

Use tools like Scribe to automate the process. Simply turn on the extension or desktop app while using the product. Scribe documents your process for you — creating step-by-step guides in seconds. Combine your Scribes in a Scribe Page, along with video, graphics and more… and voila! You’ve reduced the time it takes to create an instruction manual by over 50 percent.

Sounds like a dream? Well we’re wide awake!

Supercharge customer retention with instruction manuals

Help your users learn to love your product. An in-depth instruction manual showcases how-to steps and highlights your best features. If you ever run into any doubts along the way, refer back to this guide and skim through the best practices section for a snapshot of all the dos and don’ts. 

And simplify the process by letting Scribe do the work for you. Create comprehensive training manuals in the matter of minutes, then easily edit them as your processes evolve. And the best part? It’s completely free. Sign up now