Creating a Reference Manual
A manual is a little hand book that contains information pertaining the instructions to follow in some operation. A reference manual therefore is a manual that has information that has been arranged in a chronological summary. In most cases, the information is organized in an alphabetical order.
Reference manuals can also be in the form of an electronic document. The manuals are associated with electronic appliances and computer software. They provide tutorials that are used by the user to operate the gadgets.
Common Mistakes in Creating Reference Manuals
The common mistakes made while creating reference manuals include the grammatical errors, which change the meanings of some steps. This makes it difficult for some users to use the manuals. The other mistake is the use of native languages in user manuals yet they should be use by a wide variety of people.
Tips for Creating a Reference Manual
The following are the factors to consider while creating reference manuals. The factors have been divided into three parts that explain the design and content required to create a reference manual. The first bit is about documentation, which includes:
- Understanding the user: The manual writer should create a profile of the users by assuming their characteristics. The profile is important especially when you are part of a team that is transforming a concept into a product.
- Elements to be incorporated while designing a profile consist of: The place where the users would use the document, whether it is indoors or outdoors; the manner in which the manual would be used and user’s experience with your product.
- Be simple for the user’s comprehension: Some users may not be well versed with technical terms. How you organize your text should ape the thinking patterns of the user.
- Simplify the problem and give the solution: Once the product has been offered to the market, ions with which they can identify the problems that the user will anticipate and then list the instructions which they can follow to solve the problems. If the problem is intricate, divide it into small bits and issue instructions for each bit.
The second part is about the components in the manual which can also be listed as follows:
- Cover and title pages. For a manual with a copyright, the notice should be included on both the title and cover page. Terms and conditions are always written on the front cover of the inside.
- The preface with references should follow.
- Where the manual exceeds ten pages, include a table of contents.
- The bulk of the manual should contain materials for reference and instructions.
- Be keen to use images. You can manipulate them so that they suit the audience.
Lastly is the design of the readable reference manual. Factors to consider here are:
- Use of fonts that can be easily visualized.
- Pick on an appropriate layout and implement it.
- Bind your reference manual depending on the type of user or the place at which it will be used.
- Design a template that would be used for future editing.
How to Write a Reference Manual
Most people do not like reading manuals in full because they want specific answers for their problems. For this reason, reference manuals should be written precisely, outlining the needs of the user. The following guidelines can be used to write a credible reference manual:
- The active voice should be used as opposed to passive voice since it aims at the user and it is simple to comprehend.
- Lay emphasis on the reader through the active voice. Address them as “you” to reinforce the message you want to pass across. The message should be attractive to make them read it.
- Use clear instructions. Concise instructions will eliminate the possibility of ambiguity. The best way to give instructions is to list them in numbers.
- Set your own standards. The layouts for pages, grammar, the mode of referencing and organisation of information differs from place to place. A good manual should be distinct. The issue of decision making may be a challenge until standards have been set.
- Ask professional services for help: We can help you with all your manual or guidebook writing needs.