3 Tips for Making a Digital Instruction Manual

Instruction manuals are like a key to a castle. The beautifully-made, well-designed product is within reach, but you don’t have access to it without the right key. You can try to bang on the door to let yourself in or climb through a window. And while these tactics may work, they are an inefficient use of your time and energy. Having the key, you’re able to access what you need within the castle in the most valuable way.

Unfortunately, when many people think of an instruction manual they are thinking of an overly complicated folded up piece of paper with hard-to-understand drawings and designs. While these manuals may be commonplace for IKEA furnishings, that doesn’t mean you have to replicate this type of manual for your business! Many companies, in fact, are either forgoing printed manuals altogether or at the very least putting the manuals online so customers can access them from anywhere.

If you’re reading this, then chances are you are in need of designing an instruction manual that is purposeful and actually effective. Below, your step-by-step guide for making a digital manual that is as useful as an adorned key to Buckingham Palace.

User Manual Guide: How to Create Online, Tools & Best Practices

1. Know Your End Goal

Before you begin on step one, you need to know your end goal. Who is your audience and what are you trying to communicate? Are the readers familiar with your product or are you showing them a brand new, innovative solution? How many steps are needed and do they need to be followed in order to reach the desired end goal? Answering these questions will allow you to better focus on the type of manual you’ll create.

It can also be helpful for readers of your manual to know what the end goal is before they dive into your instructions. Showing parents what the completed Barbie doll house looks like, for example, gives them a better sense of the final outcome. The same goes for a new software technology. Outlining how incorporating this technology can improve their workflow will motivate them to follow through on your carefully laid out instructions.

2. Make it Simple

If you’ve ever put together a piece of IKEA furniture then you know that not all instruction manuals are easy to understand. Even if you have all the pieces laid out and have set aside ample time for you to construct the new bookshelf, the manual can become irritating. In order to help your customers avoid this frustrating situation, keep simplicity in mind. If the steps are too vague, then your readers won’t know what you are asking of them. And if the steps are too convoluted, you may lose them during the process.

This is a fine line to balance, which is where imagery can come into play. The beauty of a digital instruction manual is that you aren’t limited to black and white sketches on a page. You can take real images from your software platform, for instance, and show readers how to get from step one to step two. A third-party screenshot app can assist you in taking a screenshot and annotating it. An annotated screenshot can bring an elevated experience to your manual, one that leads to a more efficient, streamlined guide.

Pair an annotated screenshot with a short, concise sentence about how to access a part of the software platform. This way you’re communicating more effectively with different learning styles. Some people understand better by seeing something and following the process accordingly while others may be able to read something and follow the step. Regardless, adding a screenshot can also break up the sheer amount of text on the page and provide some visual cues.

3. Be Consistent

No matter if you’re writing an instruction manual for how to fix an iPhone glitch or how to install a light fixture, you want to be consistent. This means following the same structure and format throughout. Hopping from bullet points to sentence structure can be confusing. The same goes for adding too much detail or even too many illustrations. Having a template and following it for each of your products provides a sense of consistency to your users.

The most commonly used sections of a digital instruction manual include: introduction, step-by-step instructions, visual aids, related resources, documentation, and troubleshooting. Take each of these sections and lay out what you need to communicate and the best way to do so. From there, think about the most succinct way to relay what you need. Use the same language throughout — such as “click” or “press” but not interchangeably — to avoid any confusion. Keep the same spacing and borders and make the font easy-to-read by using a constant typography, such as Times New Roman or Helvetica.


Writing an instruction manual can be a tedious task. However, the more time you spend on it now the less time you’ll be answering confused, irritated consumers’ questions in the future. A brand that focuses on its manual is telling their customers that they want them to have a good experience with their product. With a digital manual, you can get your message across in an improved manner and you’re also able to update it as needed. Follow these tips to end up with a final product that you and your customers will find valuable.

About author

I work for WideInfo and I love writing on my blog every day with huge new information to help my readers. Fashion is my hobby and eating food is my life. Social Media is my blood to connect my family and friends.
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