<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://px.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=63941&amp;fmt=gif">
Operating Procedure

5 Tips to Create Better User Manuals for your Workforce.

Create better user manuals for the factory floor: make them visual, specific, step-by-step, task-focused, and accessible.

2 minutes read
Published on 17 July 2018 Updated on 7 June 2024

Unclear user manuals are extremely impractical for both companies and users. 

What makes a user manual bad? 

  • Too text-heavy
  • Difficult to understand or too abstract
  • Too technical
  • Not available when needed
  • Structured poorly
  • Difficult to edit and impossible to track
  • Not focused on the problems you want to solve

On the factory floor, bad instructions cause: 

  • Errors and product defects
  • Machine downtime
  • Safety hazards

This is a recipe for disaster on the modern factory floor. Operators and engineers need a solution that delivers effective, usable knowledge at the moment of need.

However, creating good user manuals can be challenging. Below, we’ll cover our five best practices on how to create a user manual for the factory floor that's truly user-centric.

create user manual - 5 tips

1. Make it visual.

  • The human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than written information. Learners spend less time processing instructions when they include clear images.

  • Pair visuals with simple, direct text to make work instructions crystal clear and unambiguous.

  • Simple images eliminate the potential confusion and misinterpretation caused by written instructions. 

  • People learn best with focused static images or short gifs that clearly show the process being described.

create user manual

 

2. Be specific.

  • Give users real tasks. When creating your user manual, make sure to ground them in their daily work and empower on-the-job learning. 

  • Ambiguity creates confusion and room for errors - which are unacceptable on the shop floor. Make sure that language is clear and direct, and avoid complex phrases, wordy sentences, and jargon wherever possible.

  • Keep visuals simple and to the point. Make sure the action is clearly demonstrated and include a model where possible. Make sure to minimize unnecessary details.

create user manual

 

3. Facilitate a step-by-step approach.

  • Create steps for your user manual that move a task from initial state to desired state - this is part of the action-oriented approach that leads a user through a task sequence.

  • Break each task into its smallest discrete components. Each step should have one action.

  • While steps need to guide users through a task, they should remain reasonably independent of one another - users need to be able to look back at an instruction and quickly scan for the necessary information without needing too much context.

create user manual

 

4. Focus on the task.

  • Eliminate distracting or otherwise non-essential information from the steps.

  • Remember to always consider the end-user when you create a user manual.

  • Users should receive only the knowledge that they need to complete the task in a safe and efficient way.

  • Visuals should follow the same formula - only include images that relate to the task at hand.

create-user-manual

 

5. Accessibility is key.

  • Eliminate distracting or otherwise non-essential information from the steps.

  • Users should receive only the knowledge that they need to complete the task in a safe and efficient way.

  • Visuals should follow the same formula - only include images that relate to the task at hand.

create user manual accessible

We’ve gathered these best practices, backed by peer-reviewed research, to help your teams deliver the most effective work instructions possible.

This information on instructional design will help you create a user manual that is practical for any application, but is especially effective on the factory floor.

 

Want to learn more?

👉 Create better, more effective visuals for you work instructions.
👉 Best devices for the frontline - our device recommendations.
👉 SOP basics: What is a standard operating procedure?

what is sop