Are you struggling to produce the documentation for your product? Is this because you have misconceptions about documentation? Here are five common myths:
Documentation isn’t important because people don’t read it anyway
It is true that people don’t read a manual if it is poorly designed, because it is easier to telephone the customer technical support department than find the answer in the manual.
However, research shows that customers do appreciate good documentation. With hi-tech products or computer software the manual is usually the first thing the user looks for, after unpacking the product, to get them up and running.
You need to have designed the product to write the documentation
The person who designed the product is often the worst person to explain how to use it, because they are too familiar with it, and cannot appreciate what users find hard to understand.
The designer will tend to think in terms of “how does the product work” rather than “how do I do this with the product”, which is what the user needs.
There is no point spending money on producing good documentation because the customer has already bought the product by that stage
Every good salesman knows that your relationship with your customer doesn’t end when you’ve sold them your product.
Good documentation adds value to your product by enabling people to use it fully, and it helps create customer loyalty by reaffirming that they made the correct purchase.
Well-designed products don’t need manuals
Are there any questions that your customers might need to have answered about how to set up, use, or maintain your product?
If the answer is yes, then however well designed your product is, it needs a manual. If not, then your product is either very intuitive, or very simple.
On-line help makes printed manuals unnecessary
Inexperienced users find it easier to learn about using a product from a printed manual, because it is less intimidating, and can explain concepts more effectively.
On-line help is ideal for providing reference information, and it has the advantage that users can look up the answer to a question while they are working with your product.
Documentation should be provided both as a printed manual and as on-line help, to cater for individual preferences.
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