Why do we write a technical manual? Or a product manual? It seems like a simple question, but is there a simple answer? The layout and presentation of a technical manual depend greatly on the product, user, language, and the brand experience. And, of course, the expectations of the technical manual are a deciding factor as well.
Choosing between a Technical Manual or a Product Manual
The significant differences between a product manual and a technical manual of certain products, such as a toaster, drilling machine, mobile phone or a candy packaging machine, are undeniable. One thing is certain: you are legally obliged to create a manual and make one available for every ‘machine’.
The legal requirements are laid down in various guidelines and norms, including the CE.
Another important note: The manual has to be written in a language understandable for the user. We have to be able to rely on professional translators, who can also write an effective product manual in other languages.
A Product Manual for Every Target Audience
The user is the target group for which the technical manual or product manual is developed. As a writer, several elements always need to be described, for instance, intended use, safety, and warnings. The user knowledge level dictates the content of the descriptive instructions. After all, a user without any prior knowledge of the product requires a manual which contains far more detailed information, whereas a professional or experienced user needsless content.
Technical Manuals for Experienced Users
What about the professional user? Does he or she need less information?
A product manual on its own is not enough. Plenty of examples illustrate that a minimalist approach to instructions does not mean maximum results. Times change, and so do machinery. A different approach is already needed for users when talking about the transition from old-fashioned rotary knobs to state-of-the-art touchscreens, such as HMIs (Human Machine Interface).
Brand Experience Entails Writing a Perfect Manual
Don’t sell your brand short by delivering a poor manual. You will not only risk having unsatisfied customers, but could also face an increased workload for your customer support, receive more returns or negative publicity, to just name a few.
Delivering our Manual: As a PDF, Online or on a Flash Drive?
At the very least, a user may expect that your manual complies with legislation that allows him or her to use your product safely and quickly. This can be achieved in multiple ways. Writing a technical manual is one thing, making it available is another. You can choose between many different forms of publication, including PDF, online or on a flash drive. Every field and target audience has its own needs and requirements.