Documentation

Instruction Manual Template: The What, Why & How (+ Proven Template Example)

Guide customers to understand and love your product with an amazing manual. This instruction manual template shows you how it's done.

Introduction

“Never assume” is one of the pillar statements of effective product management. And it extends to product usability and customers.

Unless you’re selling a water bottle, you need some kind of instruction manual to help your customers use your product. In fact, over 80 percent of people say they’ll be more loyal to businesses that give them educational documentation.

But simply having one isn’t enough — it should also be well crafted and user-friendly, with just the right amount of detail to provide value. 

Case in point: 55 percent of people have stopped using a product because they didn’t fully understand how to use it.

What can we say? Your documentation matters. 

In this guide, we’ll tell you exactly what goes into making the perfect instruction manual template to turn your users into fans. 

But first, what is an instruction manual template?

An instruction manual or user manual is a detailed document created to guide customers on how to use your product or service. It generally contains step-by-step instructions, additional tips and troubleshooting FAQs. We usually see them in written or video format. 

An instruction manual template is a sample document outlining the core components with some briefings already in place as a guide to recreate instruction manuals for different use cases.

Proven instruction manual template to steal

Here’s a basic instruction manual template you can use to create effective manual documentation for your customers:

Page 1: Introduction page

This will be the first page of your instruction manual. Give the readers a brief overview of what they can expect from the instruction manual.

You can also include a small section about your brand — just three to four lines.

Page 2: Table of contents

Add a table of contents to your instruction manual, especially if it has a lot of pages. 

This will give your readers a quick and efficient navigation system to solve a specific problem, saving time and effort. And making everyone just a little happier. 

Page 3-Page X: Step-by-Step Instruction for (Task Name)

Begin with a small introduction (only four to five sentences), and start outlining the steps to do the task. Make sure the order is correct to avoid mistakes. 

Here's an idea of what your instructions should look like:

Step 1 — (Briefly describe this step)

Make every step a concise and concrete action. Whenever possible, add images and screenshots to further illustrate your point.

Step 2 — (Briefly describe this step)

Make every step a concise and concrete action. Whenever possible, add images and screenshots to further illustrate your point.

Step 3 — (Briefly describe this step)

Make every step a concise and concrete action. Whenever possible, add images and screenshots to further illustrate your point.

Step X — (Briefly describe this step)

Repeat the above for as many steps as needed to complete the task. 

Don’t try to skip out on any steps, assuming your customers can “figure it out.”

At the same time, you don’t want to add too many unnecessary steps that feel tedious or overwhelm the reader.

Instead, try to be as succinct as you can.

Page (X + 1): FAQs

Add five to eight questions customers typically have women performing the task. Speak to your existing customers or customer executives to get an idea of their most common queries. Then answer each question as succinctly as possible.

Page (X + 2): Supplementary References

Include additional resources, links, instruction manuals and other documentation you think the reader will find useful. 

You can always add/subtract as needed from this template. Use this as the mold to create effective, comprehensive documentation for your team.

5 core elements of a successful instruction manual

Successful instruction manuals should not only educate people about your product or service but also teach them how to use its features correctly to achieve the desired goal. 

When writing an instruction manual, your ultimate goal is comprehension; your audience should be able to easily read, understand and absorb all the information you present. 

Keeping this in mind, here are the five core components of effective work instructions.

1. Introduction page

Introduce the reader to the instruction manual. Add a self-explanatory title and concise subject line on its purpose and what to expect. 

Suppose your product allows users to create meeting agendas, and you want to make an instruction manual guiding them on how to go about it. 

Here, your title can be “How to Use (Product Name) to Create Meeting Agendas“ and the subject line could be one to two lines about your product’s USP (think: Learn how to create an effective meeting agenda at the click of a button).

You can also use colorful elements to make the introduction page and welcome screen attractive and eye-catching.

2. Step-by-step instructions

Duh, right?

Ensure your digital instructions are detailed and concise. Every step should be logical and carefully arranged so customers can easily navigate menus, tabs and user interfaces.

If your instructions are for a physical product, use everyday words typically associated with the product for each section. For example, say "screw" instead of "pin."

We highly recommend giving the instructions at the very beginning to empower users to immediately take matters into their own hands.

3. Illustrations and a consistent layout

Even with the best instruction manual templates, you need to understand what works (and doesn’t) for your audience and, of course, the use case. 

When you’re writing instructions for a simple product feature, you don’t need to add illustrations. But when a feature is more nuanced (think: integrating with third-party apps), you should include design elements and illustrations to support the text.

After all, the ultimate goal here is comprehension.

It’s also important to keep things consistent throughout your instruction manual. You’ll eliminate unnecessary distractions, allowing the reader to pay attention to and observe the presented information. 

Note that consistency here includes every little aspect of the document, including the wording, sentence structure, borders and spacing. 

  • Using Arial font size 12? Stick to it. 
  • Leaving 1.5-inch border space on the first page? Add it for all the remaining pages. 
  • Using "Click" in the first step? Use the same word throughout; don't substitute with "Press/Select."

4. Related resources 

There’s a common misconception that your instruction manual should focus only on the topic at hand. While you want to cover that topic comprehensively, don’t second guess, including extra material that will help your audience go above and beyond the instructions.

Continuing with our previous example, let’s assume you’ve written the steps to create a meeting agenda with your product. Towards the end, include additional links to other instruction manuals (for example, an instruction manual for sharing the meeting agenda with multiple people) that they’ll likely find valuable.

5. Process documentation tool

Sure, you can make an instruction manual manually. But is it really worth it, considering how time-consuming and error-prone the entire process is? 

A process documentation tool lets you simplify the instruction manual creation process and store your instruction manual template for later use.

Scribe creates visually appealing and comprehensive instruction manuals in seconds. All you have to do is switch on the tool and start using your product. Once you’re done, click “Stop.” Scribe will automatically convert your process into chronological step-by-step instructions, complete with text and screenshots. Here's a Scribe that only took our teammate Leni 12 seconds to make!

Edit, share or embed a Scribe in seconds. It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to onboard and train your customers. 

3 challenges of writing and updating instruction manual documentation

Writing an effective instruction manual is only half the battle — you also need to maintain it, incorporate the latest modifications and get rid of outdated content. 

Here are the top challenges of creating and updating manual documentation.

1. Inaccessibility

There’s no point in creating an instruction manual if no one can access it. Think about it:

  • Your customers want to know how to use a specific product feature.
  •  Your employees will need the instruction manual template to create more documentation. 
  • Perhaps even you would want one handy in case you need to onboard a customer in person.

If you don’t give them easy access, they’ll lose interest and take matters into their own hands, which will likely lead to less desirable results. 

This is also where digital instruction manuals fare better than physical ones. You can easily send a PDF format or share a URL via email, which is far more convenient than distributing a printed book. 

2. Challenging document modifications

Relevance is crucial in instruction manuals. 

Whether adding a new feature or removing an old one, all documentation should reflect your products and services to a T. The issue here is companies are constantly innovating and launching new products and features to keep up with the dynamic industry landscape. 

This makes it difficult for your documentation team to keep up and update instruction manuals. And if they show any slack in updating the documentation, annoyed customers will start to complain about the inaccurate information on your company’s official document. Yikes.

3. Resource waste

When you write or update physical instruction manuals, you’ll have to replace all outdated versions of the document to prevent them from getting into the hands of a customer. This leads to a lot of wasted hours and materials. 

What’s more, if you end up making any mistakes (common when doing things by hand), you’ll have to repeat the process. So more wastage again. 

Let’s not forget it takes time before we notice the mistake, which can also lead to undue delays and customer grievances. 

Take advantage of a faster, easier way with Scribe Pages

The good news is there is a solution that can:

  • Make your instruction manuals easy to access.
  • Let you and others make unlimited modifications and divisions — all at the touch of a button.
  • Eliminate unnecessary time and material wastage. 

Scribe’s latest feature Pages lets you combine multiple Scribes on a process document with text, media and more. 

Use Pages to simplify the process of creating highly effective instruction manuals — and update it whenever needed.

Which Scribe, you can save over 20 hours every month explaining, training, and answering questions. Sign up for free and experience it yourself.