The documentation accompanying a product serves as a fundamental guide for the user. In many cases this document is the only means by which a user can understand the product’s full potential. However, in most cases, this documentation is looked at by manufacturing companies as a mere afterthought – something that has to be done but does not need a great deal of attention or detail. Without putting much thought into this information, though, companies are doing their customers a great disservice.
To properly meet the needs of customers and to effectively promote the use of the product, a product guide and any other documentation accompanying a new product needs to be formatted in an appropriate manner. Companies can maximize the success of their products’ documentation by considering a few key questions and including the essential characteristics of this type of document.
As a company is creating a product guide, it is important for the party responsible for this document to consider a few key questions. By addressing these questions, the documentation specialist will be able to create a more comprehensive, usable guide for consumers.
Before creating the document, the individual or group should consider:
- How should this document be formatted to be most successful?
- Is there any recognized or standard format to be used for this type of document (i.e., an instruction manual, usage guidelines, etc.)?
- Will the appearance of the document affect its usability?
- Is there any place for hypertext in this document? Would it be beneficial?
- Do I need to consult a documentation specialist for assistance with producing a document that can later be transferred to a more enhanced system for conversion?
Each of these questions help guide the process of document creation. It is important for product documentation to be presented in an appropriate format to make it easy-to-use for consumers. Likewise, the document needs to be attractive and succinct so that customers can find the information they need about the product. Inclusions such as hypertext are appropriate when the manual is accessible online but are less useful for print documentation. And even a short consultation with a documentation consultant can make all the difference when creating a product document. Take these things into consideration as you produce documentation for any company products.
It is also important to incorporate the essential characteristics of a product document. A product guide must be formatted in such a way to be useful for the customer.
The essentials of any product document include:
- Language and information used must be appropriate for the intended readership.
- Material included should be at a level and pace that is consistent with the intended reader’s level of intelligence.
- Information provided must be consistent in terminology use.
- Writing style should be such as to enable the reader to find a rapport but still maintain a tone that is consistent with the supplier’s corporate image.
- Complexity and detail of product is included without being intimidating.
- Organization system throughout to enable topics to be found easily.
- Procedural instructions included that are complete and accurate.
Taking the time to appropriately format and complete product documentation is essential. It will make all the difference for the success of a company and customer alike