We spend so much time on our product interface, website user experience, A/B testing colors on landing pages, aligning the products guys with the design and usability folks – so it might come as a shock to hear you still aren’t doing enough when it comes to UX. So what else is there? Product manuals.
Think about it, when was the last time you put your product manuals through a usability test? It’s a no-brainer why UX is so important, so why aren’t we giving our product manuals more thought? Just as your website needs love, so do your product manuals. Those little manuals can have a profound effect on your bottom line. Maybe it’s hard to convince your design or product marketing team or maybe you just had no idea how important your product manuals (Aaron Fulkerson talks more about that in Forbes) are to your company’s success. Whatever the reason, it’s time to take your product manuals through a UX overhaul. Still not convinced? Here are 5 reasons why you need to stop everything and launch a UX strategy for your product manuals today.
- Extends your brand experience. Just as you would measure bounce rate or stickiness of your website, your product manuals need to offer an engaging experience through easily accessible, navigable and relevant content. Generally this also means that it’s designed well, however let’s not confuse “pretty” with experience. Remember, your product manual is an extension of your brand experience. If you don’t put the same love and strategy into your product manuals as your website and product you’re selling yourself short. Having a clean user experience in your manual is key. That might mean that they’re “prettier” and more (dare I say) social but at the end of the day, the user experience of your manuals (along with relevant content, obviously) is going to have a profound effect on persuading your prospects. We’re all human and we pick products based on the psychological effects (experience) they have on us; feel, color, taste, smell – the manual is no different so be sure to extend your brand experience there, as well.
- You will save money. Yeah I get it, you hear everyday from another company or service claiming to “save you money” but just hear me out for a minute on this one (get 2 for the price of 1 if you call now!). By creating a rich user experience in your manuals, you will help your customers help themselves without the need to call your support team. Think about it – if you cut out 50% of your support calls on a daily basis because your customers found answers through your product documentation, instead of calling support, you would save 50% more. Over time that’s a lot of dough. It’s a no-brainer. On that same note, the social experience is also very important. If you make the content socially accessible (tagging, sharing, commenting, cross-referencing via social networks, dynamic), it gives your prospects the unique opportunity to cross reference with their own friends (people with whom they trust) and others (people they don’t know but will trust more than marketing jargon on your website) who went through the same process they are going through now. Facilitating this open conversation saves you money by enabling your prospects to run their own due diligence.
- You will make money. Seriously. It’s a fact that prospects make product support and documentation a deciding factor in making purchases. Documentation is a critical step in your prospect’s due diligence. The experience they have in the navigation, search and quality of the content you deliver them will convert more of these prospects to customers and help to accelerate the transition of regular users, to power users, to brand champions. If the docs are engaging and easily navigable, you will directly impact their path and accelerate your everyday user to becoming a power user. And why are power users so valuable to companies? Because they are your brand champions. The more brand champions you have, the more money you make. It’s pretty simple math.
- It shows your users you care. Every customer wants to be reassured that no matter what, your company will always take care of them. You reassure your customers all day long with marketing promises on your website, sales calls, case studies and schwagg but what they want to know is that they’ll be taken care of AFTER the sale. How do you show your prospects that after the honeymoon’s over you’ll take care of them? The fact is that the #1 place your prospects go to determine if a company will care for them after a sale is the product manual and documentation. Put careful thought into your product manual’s navigation, interconnectedness, social experience and discoverability, and your users will be eager to become customers. Exert the same energy and passion you would for your website or web application UX (check out what we’re doing with Contextual Help here) into your manuals and buyers will take notice – heck, they will probably think you’re more committed to their success – and it all started with that pretty little manual.
- Further strengthens your brand identity. Your brand identity is one of your biggest assets and reflects how you want your customers to perceive your brand. Take a lesson from Apple. From the moment a prospect walks into your door/visits your website to the final handshake of a deal completed, the visual and emotional brand cues need to be consistent. Your product manuals are no exception. Don’t leave a gap in your brand identity by forgetting to extend that experience to your product documentation and manuals. If those don’t match the rest of the experience, you will have an incomplete story…an incomplete identity. By creating a consistent experience across all web properties (website, user manuals, etc) today, you’ll reap the benefits of a strengthened brand identity tomorrow.
This post was sparked from Kristin Zhivago’s recent article, What’s your most important sales tool when selling something complex? where I was intrigued by her statement, “Should you be paying more attention to your manuals? Yes. Not in the sense of making them “prettier,” which would just act as a red flag for the serious buyer, because it won’t look serious enough.” I would, respectfully, like to disagree. I do think that having a clean user experience in your product manual is essential (let’s not confuse “pretty” with experience, though). That might mean that they’re “prettier” and more (dare I say) social but at the end of the day, the user experience of your manuals (along with relevant content, obviously) is going to have a profound effect on persuading your prospects. What do you think?
If you were down to 2 vendors (content being the same for both) and one manual was hard to read and navigate but the second manual had a good flow, was easy to navigate and read through, do you really think you’d go with #1 because you thought #2 was “too pretty”? Would a serious buyer look at a “prettier” manual as a red flag? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.