Enhance User Manuals and Instructional Booklets with Flowcharts

Enhance User Manuals and Instructional Booklets with Flowcharts

“Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, allowing us to do things more quickly and efficiently. But too often it seems to make things harder, leaving us with fifty-button remote controls, digital cameras with hundreds of mysterious features and book-length manuals, and cars with dashboard systems worthy of the space shuttle” – James Surowiecki

The quote above aptly describes the confusion we face in our daily lives, especially when technology becomes overpowering. Companies put together user manuals to explain the technology of whatever they are selling, but often these instructional booklets end up confusing users even more. Simplifying, making comprehensible and augmenting is what is required, and the flowchart tool is needed to do so in order to enhance user manuals and instructional booklets, such that they serve their intended purpose. If your company is planning to put together user manuals / instructional booklets, or intending to elevate the existing user manuals and process management, then it would be befitting to read this exposition.

With time and owing to some of the complexity added by technology, user manuals and instructional booklets have become a necessity for several products and activities. These ‘guides’ are prepared with the intention of simplifying the understanding of the service and or product offered to customers and clients, but they will not serve their intended purpose unless they are easily understandable. Proper – read as comprehensible and robust documentation is essential to support customer experience and usage, and user manuals form part of this documentation, and hence they must be simple and engaging. Using flowcharts to explain the working and handling of a product and or service is a great way to enhance user manuals and instructional booklets. The standard linear structure of such documents, whether as hard copies or online, often goes unused since navigating and using them seem like herculean tasks. This means that the user manuals do not accomplish their immediate aim, which is to help and simplify the working process of a service or product. Even the most well-written, detailed, and properly structured instructional booklets can fall flat because of just one flaw – too complicated. There are other reasons too, and it makes sense to understand how enhance user manuals – using flowcharts.

. The standard linear structure of such documents, whether as hard copies or online, often goes unused since navigating and using them seem like herculean tasks. This means that the user manuals do not accomplish their immediate aim, which is to help and simplify the working process of a service or product. Even the most well-written, detailed, and properly structured instructional booklets can fall flat because of just one flaw – too complicated. There are other reasons too, and it makes sense to understand how enhance user manuals – using flowcharts.

Flowcharts can immensely help to enhance user manuals for a number of reasons. As a consumer, how many times can you honestly say that you have thoroughly read or even skimmed through the instructional booklets / manuals provided with a product? Of course, we believe that we ‘know’ about the product or service, but the main reason is that these user manuals are boring and onerous, and the small print is a major annoyance. Well, with everyone so rushed, skipping this activity is common, and it is the onus of a business to make their user manuals easier to read by making them interesting – adding a visual aid such as a flowchart. Even technical jargon, detailed text, and hard to understand words become surprisingly easy to comprehend when expressed through a properly created flowchart. Of course, it is not possible to convert entire user manuals, hence it is important to a take a decision on which parts of the instructional booklets can be / should be converted to flowcharts, to aid understanding. Using flowcharts will make those parts of the user manuals self-explanatory and the graphical element will ensure interest and engagement on the part of the consumer.

A verbose and onerous complicated set of provisional instructions can be easily complemented by a highly illustrative and interesting flowchart. For example: rather than only providing a worded document with regard to a particular feature of the product, a flowchart with pictures and decision points would raise comprehension and allow the user to quickly grasp the feature. Hence, rather than putting down in words, “press the red button”, it would be better to depict the red button as a picture as part of the process of understanding. This depiction is sure to deliver an instantaneous comprehension of what the user needs to do, leading to engagement. It takes just a little effort to enhance user manuals, but doing so can raise the satisfaction quotient amongst customers.

Another portion of user manuals that can be elevated by using flowcharts is the portion that describes the components, structure, and make up of a device. Rather than enlisting all this in worded text, a flowchart would do just to show the separate mechanisms, and the joining lines in the flowchart would clearly depict the relation / connection between each component, and the role that each one essays. Such a depiction is clearly easier to comprehend that cumbersome and overused technical jargon text.

As we have been discussing, flowcharts are amongst the top tools to depict the process of workflows and operating procedures. They should be given precedence over text, despite the fact that a text document would have more details and explanation about each step. As mentioned, consumers hardly take the time to read these user manuals, but a visual aid such as a flowchart is sure to grab attention. Hence, along with providing clear visual instructions, going through a flowchart and being able to understand the process, raises the confidence and interest levels of a consumer. When consumers can see the effort on the part of a company to ensure that consumers do not struggle with understanding or using a product, the affinity for such a brand rises. By going through a flowchart, a consumer can easily figure out the connection between each step of the process, which saves her / him from the frustrating task of perusing a heavy worded document for a resolution.

When designed well, a flowchart can serve to enhance user manuals by descriptively depicting issues, actions, steps, and part of operating procedures. The best user manuals are the one that are most illustrative and graphic!

The fact is that users are unlikely to make time or have the inclination to read through the fine print of tough to understand user manuals. Most often they see the instructional booklets as documents that companies produce in order to be legally compliant, but the manuals lack any effort to actually help consumers understand the content. By using flowcharts it is possible to enhance user manuals by making them a critical portion of the knowledge base, not just for consumers but for use within the companies as well. Well written and accurately depicting processes via flowcharts can form best practices, which can easily be penetrated and make ubiquitous throughout the organization, ensuring that learning about the company’s products is actually a company-wide practice.

User manuals should not be treated as external documents or isolated pieces of information, but rather should be central and fundamental to the holistic development and knowledge base of the company. This would ensure that even the non-technical staff / those not directly involved with the conceptualization and creation of products, also understand how the products work and what would need to be done in case of an issue. These user manuals would be indispensable in raising the quality of customer service as well.

Creating a robust and comprehensible user manual for any type of product is undoubtedly a herculean task. However, by using flowcharting diagrams, a company can easily put together an understandable, coherent, descriptive, and engaging document, which actually serves the purpose of helping consumers to use the products and remain loyal to the brand.

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