A Guide to Installation Manuals: Everything You Need to Know

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By Brant Wilkerson-New
July 2, 2024

Have you ever tried to install something without a manual? It’s difficult and frustrating. That’s why installation instructions come in handy when people want to install software or hardware. A clear and concise installation manual can make a world of difference to users and improve the customer experience and satisfaction.

A good installation manual is accurate and speaks to its audience. It delivers the relevant information in a clear way and spares frustration and misunderstandings. It answers questions and helps users make the most of their software or hardware.

Here is a guide on creating installation manuals in the most effective and helpful way.

Why Do I Need an Installation Manual?

An installation manual can help a company in many ways. Here are the top reasons why you may need one.

People need guidance about the installation process

The short answer to that question is that people who will be using your product have probably no idea about how to install it. Don’t assume that all people have the right knowledge and background to install products or services within minutes.

Think about people who are using your product or system for the first time and need assistance with the installation process. Or think about others who might have installed similar products but need specifications for your product in particular.

Protect your business and its reputation

Don’t dismiss the need to protect your business and its reputation. Installation manuals make sure the products are assembled and installed correctly, which helps prevent damage and accidents. Imagine a person installing your product willy-nilly and then complaining that it doesn’t work. This person will have a negative experience with your business — and you don’t want that. 

It saves you time in customer service

Installation manuals provide technical support as they answer common questions. This reduces the need for customer service intervention and saves you time and money.

User satisfaction

For manufacturers, a clear and concise installation manual can boost user satisfaction and brand loyalty. Knowing that the installation manual is clear and helpful will make people choose your products instead of your competitors.

What’s in an Installation Manual?

If you wish to write an installation manual, you should follow the steps below.

Title Page and Table of Contents

Start with a clear title page that includes the product name, model number, and any versioning information. Follow this with a detailed table of contents to help users easily navigate the document. If a user is familiar with the product, they might be looking for something specific instead of the whole installation process. Help them out and make it easier for them.

Introduction and safety information

Begin with an introduction that outlines the purpose of the manual and the importance of following the instructions. Include comprehensive safety information so that users are aware of potential hazards and necessary precautions.

Tools and materials needed

Provide a list of tools and materials required for the installation. Include specifications to avoid confusion, such as the exact size of screws or the type of software required.

Step-by-Step instructions

This is the core of your manual. Break down the installation process into clear, numbered steps. Each step should be accompanied by detailed descriptions and relevant illustrations or photographs. Use simple language and avoid technical jargon where possible.

Diagrams and illustrations

Visual aids are very helpful in an installation manual. High-quality diagrams, illustrations, and photographs can help users understand complex instructions more easily. Label all visuals and reference them in the text.

Troubleshooting and FAQs

Include a section that answers common issues and questions that may arise during installation. Provide clear solutions and tips to resolve these problems quickly. This section can help you reduce the amount of calls you get at your customer service department.

Warranty and support information

Conclude with information about the product warranty and how users can contact customer support if they need further assistance. Provide multiple contact methods, such as phone numbers, email addresses, and website links.

What Makes a Good Installation Manual?

If you want your business to outshine your competitors, pay attention to how you develop your installation manuals. You may be surprised at what people appreciate in businesses!

Clarity and conciseness

Use clear and concise language. Avoid unnecessary details that might confuse the reader. Each instruction should be straightforward and to the point. The voice should be active and sentences short and authoritative.

Consistency

Maintain a consistent style and format throughout the manual. Use the same fonts, language, and structure throughout the manual. Use the same terms and phrases to describe tools, parts, and actions. Consistency helps users follow the instructions without getting confused. Calling an item or a piece of infrastructure something different every time will only confuse and frustrate users.

Write for your audience

Write with the end user in mind. Before you start writing an installation manual, think of who will be using the product or service. If you are talking to an audience that doesn’t have technical expertise, explain terms and processes that might be unfamiliar and provide context where necessary. Don’t assume that your audience is familiar with the product or has general knowledge about the installation process.

Test and get feedback

Test your manual with a representative audience. Check how well they install the product or service and listen to their feedback and questions. Pencil down if they stumble following the steps and if some parts lack clarity. 

Gather their feedback and make necessary revisions. Testing is very important because it helps identify unclear instructions and potential improvements.

Formatting and presentation

Make your installation manual look good and feel readable at first glance.

Consistent Structure and Layout

Begin with a clear title page that includes the product name, model number, version, and company logo.

Provide a detailed table of contents that lists all sections and subsections with corresponding page numbers.

Use clear, hierarchical headings (e.g., H1 for main sections, H2 for subsections) to organize content. Consistent use of headers helps users quickly find specific information.

Typography

Use a simple, readable font such as Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman. Avoid decorative fonts.

The font size should be large enough to read easily. Typically, this means 11-12 points for body text and 14-16 points for headings.

Use bold for headings and important points, and italics for emphasis or technical terms. Avoid overuse because it’s confusing.

Spacing and alignment

Use adequate line spacing (1.5 or double-spaced) to prevent the text from appearing cramped. If users see a long text, they might get discouraged from reading it.

Keep paragraphs short and focused on a single point. Use bullet points or numbered lists for steps and key points to improve readability.

Visual aids

Include clear, high-quality images and diagrams. Use arrows, labels, and annotations to highlight important parts and actions.

Position images close to the relevant text to make it easy for users to understand the instructions.

Provide descriptive captions for all images and diagrams to explain their purpose.

Step-by-Step instructions

Use numbered lists for step-by-step instructions. Each step should be clearly numbered and described in detail.

Use bullet points for lists that don’t require a specific order.

Tables and charts

Use tables to organize complex information, such as parts lists or tool requirements.

Include charts to explain processes or show relationships between components.

Navigation

Include page numbers, section titles, and the document version in headers or footers for easy navigation and reference.

In digital manuals, use hyperlinks to help users jump to specific sections, related topics, or external resources.

Safety and warnings

Use boxes, bold text, or icons to highlight safety warnings and important notes. These should stand out from the rest of the text.

Use universally recognized symbols for warnings, cautions, and notes. Don’t be original, people don’t like surprises and guesswork when they are trying to install something.

Language and style

Use simple, direct language. Avoid technical jargon unless it is explained in a glossary or footnote.

Write in an active voice to make instructions clear and direct.

Be specific in instructions. Avoid ambiguous terms like “soon” or “a few.” It lacks authority and creates confusion. Have you ever asked different people what ‘a few minutes’ means? You will get very different answers.

Installation Μanuals Written by Professionals

Don’t cut corners when writing an installation manual. Hire a professional technical writer with the right expertise to write your installation manuals. Your customers will thank you and your business will benefit from professional technical writing. Not to mention how you will lessen the burden on your customer service department.

Installation manuals boost how people use your products and the overall experience they get. Make the most of it!

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