Who on Your Team Should Create the User Manual for Your New Product?

Not all user manuals are the same. There are quick-start manuals, troubleshooting guides, assembly and installation manuals, and user instructions, to name a few. But user manuals are essential accompaniments to any new product. They improve customer satisfaction and protect you from potential legal issues related to unsafe and improper use. They inspire confidence in the product you sell.

In other words, user manuals need to cover a lot of bases. Moreover, they need to do it in a language the user can comprehend. These are all reasons that make the composition of your manual creation team so important. Put the right people to work on delivering the user manual for your new product. Here’s who you should consider putting on that team.

Technical Writers

It’s the job of technical writers to educate, inform, and instruct users of products. The better the writer, the easier it is for users to understand how to assemble and use what they’ve purchased.

Language is paramount in technical writing. First, how writers use it is important. Although they understand the technical, they write content in such a way that the audience can grasp it. Second, they rely on words, not merely the diagrams of flat-pack furniture assembly instructions.

No matter what kind of product you sell, you can find a writer who can interpret its use to your customers. If you don’t have one on your team, you can partner with an agency that provides technical writing services. Those writers will have experience translating a range of products for a variety of purposes. They’ll know from experience what will work best for your target.

Instructional Designers

Indeed, it’s probably instructional designers who diagram those wordless illustrations for flat-pack furniture. After all, a picture paints a thousand words. But when you’re trying to instruct or educate users, you’ll want those pictures to convey the most value.

Combining the talent and expertise of instructional designers with that of technical writers is a one-two punch. Everyone knows that reading instructions is one thing. But the brain processes visual clues far faster than text, so designers bring that to the table.

Keep in mind that instructional designers also know how to choose the best media for communication. In addition to photos and graphics, they employ video and audio. That’s an important talent for a team position.

Product Developers

Technical writers and instructional designers interpret products. Product developers are part problem-solvers, part inventors. They create those products that need user manuals.

When these team members develop products, they’re looking for ways to solve a problem or fill a need for customers. That means they should know who’s in the target audience and what their capabilities are. They’re challenged to design according to those capabilities, as well as with a focus on safety.

The product you’re instructing people how to use began with the ingenuity, knowledge, and skill of its developer. So, it makes sense that when you’re creating the user manual, this person should be part of the team. That way, the rest of the team can always go back to the source for information.

Project Managers

Before someone designs your new products, project managers identify the need for them. Then, they determine how products will fulfill your company’s goals and objectives and assemble a team to get the job done. 

Project leadership guru Martin Ericksson’s now-famous venn diagram puts project managers at the intersection of technology, business, and user experience. The view from that intersection is precisely why they should be on the user manual creation team. Since they’re responsible for managing the process from inception through use, they accumulate unique institutional knowledge while doing so.

Remember that user manuals need to instruct and support your customers and protect the company from liability. Throughout the development of a new product, project managers were concerned and involved with all those aspects. They should be a part of achieving the product’s ultimate goals.

Marketing Staff

When you think of the marketing of your new product, you probably consider advertising, content, and social media strategies. What you may not know is that user manuals are, indeed, marketing tools. So, put your marketing pros on the manual creation team.

A well-designed and clear user manual confirms to your customers that they made a wise purchasing decision. It convinces them that they bought the high-quality product they expected. Moreover, they know you want them to use it without difficulty or frustration.

Your marketing staff should have the deepest knowledge about your target audience. The messaging and content supporting a product need to be consistent. It’s your marketing staff who can ensure it is.

Customer Service

Last, but certainly not least, put your customer service representatives on the team. After all, they are the people who will be fielding the calls and contacts from frustrated customers. Allow them to head off what they can before sales begin.

Because employees in this role hear from customers routinely, they understand their language. They know whether people who purchase your products know a wing nut from an Allen wrench. As customer service pros read through the content as it’s being produced, they can anticipate where users may struggle.

Consider your customer service or CX staff as the eyes and ears of the people who buy your products. After all, they’re the ones who always get an earful of problems.

Assemble a Dream Team

The best user manuals are the result of multiple perspectives. The culmination of the talent and experience represented in these six roles should keep all your bases covered. That’s a customer experience winner for sure.

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