4 ways to make your consumer goods user manual more accessible

Dave Hoogakker
September 1, 2022
5 min read
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4 ways to make your consumer goods user manual more accessible

With every consumer goods launch comes an accompanying user manual.

For some sectors, such as electronics and toys, user guides are a legal requirement. For others, they’re a useful way to help people assemble and use your products correctly.

Yet, given user manuals’ importance to the overall customer experience, they are often paid limited attention. Many brands simply print instruction leaflets or upload PDFs to their website without making the content appealing to consumers.

With a bit of time and investment, however, your company can create a user manual that engages customers and helps to build stronger relationships. Here are four ways to make your product guide more accessible and relevant to local audiences.

1. Publish your user manual online

Many consumer goods brands are phasing out printed user manuals. High printing costs, low customer engagement levels, and the environmental impact of using thousands of sheets of paper create a compelling argument for moving to online product guides.

The major advantage of a digital user manual is its instant accessibility. Consumers are only a click or tap away from being able to look up information, which encourages them to double-check assembly and usage instructions.

It’s also easier to include images with a digital manual; adding colour doesn’t inflate costs like it does with a printed user guide. In addition, providing photos and diagrams increases the clarity of your product instructions and minimises the chance of incorrect usage.

Apple’s iPhone is an excellent example of an online user guide that combines imagery with clear instructions. It allows customers to click through to specialist articles, like how to take amazing photos and videos. This makes it easier for iPhone users to get straight to the guidance they need – no more scrolling through page after page in search of an answer.

Before you publish an online user guide, however, it’s worth checking whether there are legal mandates around what information must be included, and in what format. For example, some machinery items require safety-related information to be provided with the product, but further usage details can be published online.

It’s also worth checking out local legal requirements. For example, legislation like the EU’s New Legislative Framework can impact what consumer goods companies must publish in each end market.

2. Create subtitled video content  

Images aren’t the only way to bring user manuals to life. A rising number of brands are choosing to embed video content into online product guides to convey information in an easy-to-digest format. Along with appealing to time-poor customers, it creates an opportunity to sell complementary accessories and maintenance services.

One product video that caught Hooley Brown’s eye is the Nespresso Inissia first use directions. By choosing a visual format, Nespresso can provide instructions for setting up its machine in less than two minutes.

One key feature of Nespresso’s instructional video is the inclusion of both a voiceover and subtitles. Conveying information in multiple formats will make your user guide accessible to customers with visual and hearing impairments.

Subtitling can also help non-native users to understand information clearly – although you will get the best engagement levels from translating product guides into local languages.

3. Localise technical details

Language isn’t the only user manual element that ideally needs to be localised. For many products, technical information can change depending on where consumers are based.

For example, the standard voltage for UK electronics is 240 volts, whereas it’s 120 volts in the USA. As a result, some UK electronics are unsuitable for use in the USA. Localised information can help your customers use products correctly and ensure that numerical volumes are converted to regional measurement units.

Even globally renowned companies can make technical oversights that impact the consumer experience. One way to ensure that the correct instructions are published in every target region is to collaborate with a compliance agency when compiling your user manual.

4. Publish regular updates

Product innovation is fast – and many consumer goods companies frequently push new functionalities to existing products via software updates. But those feature upgrades aren’t always covered in the product manual.

The joy of online user guides is their flexibility; you can update information as often as you want, in line with product innovation. This ensures your customers are referring to up-to-date information, rather than a printed manual written several years ago.

Updating your online user guide doesn’t mean you have to scrap previous versions, either. Some consumer goods companies retain older editions for customers using legacy products.

As more people repair and recycle goods to live sustainably, creating a digital user guide library is a helpful way to provide people with access to the correct manual for their particular item.

Investing more resources into your user manuals

As more consumer goods companies move from physical to digital user guides, the money saved on printing costs can be reinvested into making online manuals more accessible.

Using visual formats to relay information and localising languages and specifications can greatly affect how customers assemble and use your products. And the easier they find products to operate, the greater the chance they will buy from you again.

While many of the accessibility changes we’ve recommended can be managed internally by your product and marketing teams, enlisting the support of a compliance specialist takes the weight off your shoulders.

A good compliance agency will provide user manual translation services, an additional layer of proofing and checking, and peace of mind that your product information is up-to-date with local and industry legislation.

Does your user manual need reviewing or translating? Get in touch with Hooley Brown to book a compliance check.

This blog post was written in September 2022. Facts were correct at the time of writing.

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