Creating a User Manual That Will Actually Get Read


If You Want Your Product to be Used, Make Sure the Manual is Useful

How many times have you opened up a product and subsequently thrown away the user manual? Probably a bunch. So, how do you create a user manual that people will actually read, hold onto, and get value of out of?

Here are a couple of tips to help guide the forlorn and under-appreciated manual writer:

Define the User

You’ll need to consider who is going to be reading and using the manual you are creating. Is the manual’s purpose to help someone put together a complicated piece of machinery? Or is its purpose merely a reference document for an easy-to-setup product? For the first example, a “getting started” section would be appropriate, whereas for the second, an FAQ section would be more useful.

Not all user manuals are created equally. Each must be tailored towards a potential user.

Write Clearly

You’ll need to write in a way that anybody could understand. Even if you work in a highly technical field, you should be able to clearly explain in simple terms what a solid state hard drive is or how to operate an intricate piece of equipment. Graphics can be a big help here. Using charts, graphs, and pictures can greatly help a user understand complex material.

If there is no way to avoid technical jargon, add a glossary to the back of the manual to improve the reader’s experience; it’s a way out if they get lost. Remember: anybody who picks up the manual should be able to read and understand it.


Be sure to include all the appropriate pages a user manual needs. That would include a title page, a table of contents, a cover page (yes, sometimes this is forgotten), and a copyright page. You want to give your user manual a feeling of organization. If it does not feel organized, a user will throw it away immediately and not look back.

A disorganized manual seems like too much work to try and read or work through.

Print or Online?

The short answer for this consideration is both. It’s best to include a physical manual with the product for those who aren’t tech savvy, but also have a link on it to a virtual manual. The best practice is to have these online documents in .PDF format. It’s also just polite to have a copy both physically and online: if the manual is ever lost, a replacement can easily be found.

You can find great online printing sites to get the best deals on binding and paper.  Since booklets tend to be a lot of pages, it’s best to go with online printing; it can save you a boatload of money over traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

You’ll want to find a vendor that doesn’t require minimum orders. Especially since user manuals have a lot of pages, you’ll be able to order one copy just to see what it looks like before you decide whether you want to buy 250.

Remember, a good manual, most of all, should educate and inform the buyer of your product. The most important thing in a user manual is the usefulness of the information.

About The Author

Mark Stokvis is the Director of Marketing at Best Value Copy, an online printing company that provides cheap color copies and a variety of other printed materials. He has over 14 years of experience in the printing industry, he is an expert on all things paper. Connect with Mark on Google+.