The problem with product manuals

by Ashvini on January 22, 2014

in General

Do you ever read a manual ? If not you are not alone. I don’t think many buyers would like to read manuals unless they it is impossible to make product work without manual.

The first thing they want to do is to open the package and start playing around with whatever they have ordered.

The first thing I look for is quick start guide, a blogging tutorial or at best a good video explaining how to work on it. If there is a wizard , I would happily start using it. And I am not a tech noob. I am just not willing to surf through the manual unless I need to.

Why are manuals under-read? Because they seem like boring books. How many times in a class or training one almost slept through when the subject got too technical to understand ? Many times I guess.

The problem with the manuals is that

  1. they don’t appeal to the natural learning instinct of the buyer
  2. they are too detailed
  3. they are boring
  4. they lead to wastage of paper

Instead a quick start guide is great

  1. There are diagrams which look like real world objects
  2. You can see how to actually connect a gadget to another
  3. The steps are numbered A, B or C in bold which are easy to follow
  4. You are good to go in 5- 10 minutes

A wizard is better because

  1. All one needs to do is choose and click next
  2. The simplicity of the process is mind boggling
  3. At the end of the wizard, we feel like a king who has delegated boring work to someone else

I have nothing against a good manual. They are treasure of information. However the information need for general public is far lower than companies expect. As an example in my product Share Juice Pro, a user can read what a field is for just by hovering mouse on the field . There is no external web page ( often called as Knowledgebase ) to open. The information is right there. This suits my software users.

Use a blog post, quick start guide or a good video. Convert  a manual to a pdf and allow people to download it from your website. Most of the products that are designed for consumers do not need lengthy printed manuals.

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