How to create a manual on time?

Is creating a manual rocket science?

Is creating a manual rocket science? Actually, it is not. However, it is of the utmost importance to follow a number of relatively strict guidelines when creating a printed manual or online manual. To create a manual is basically to follow some guidelines. These guidelines save you time. A timely preparation is of the essence when creating a manual.

Whether you create an online manual or a printed version of your manual, the production time for your manual is roughly the same in both cases, leaving aside the printing time of course.

In order to save time, a few guidelines might come in handy. The guidelines will not only save time, but also costs. How is it possible to create a manual in less time?

Phrasing your instructions

A manual consists of working instructions. If one is strict in phrasing these instructions, one can save writing time. For example: if one writes down working instructions in imperative sentences only (“Press the Start button” instead of “You know have to press the Start button”), this speeds up the writing process considerably.

After all, one does not need to reflect on how to phrase a specific instruction: an imperative sentence is always the perfect solution. Not only that: the reading time of an instruction is as short as possible, leading to a better understanding because of faster information processing.

Using illustrations

Creating a manual implies using writing down words and sentences. This is true, but at the same time it isn’t. If a picture would do the job instead of a set of sentences, it is much better to use such a picture. There are at least two advantages if one uses a picture.

The first is that the technical writer and the technical illustrator can work in tandem and save time.

Secondly, a picture can tell more than a 1,000 words, leading to an instant understanding on the part of the user, saving him time as well.

Also, a picture does not need translation – speeding up the process even more. This is especially true if multiple manuals in multiple languages are involved. Let alone the fact that translation costs will be less.

Reviewing as soon as possible

Peer reviewing among colleagues should be a part of creating any manual. Especially when strict guidelines are in place, reviewing is much easier than would be the case without these guidelines. It could also be done as soon as possible, as these guidelines permit easy reviewing.

Appointing a project manager

It may sound obvious but it is terribly important: when creating a manual, one should appoint a project manager. Being a project manager of course does not imply a fulltime occupation. However, even if someone would dedicate 5 or 10% of his of her time to the process of creating a manual, this would make all the difference. After all, checking the schedule implies adhering to the schedule as much as is possible.