As consumers, the last thing we want is to open an instruction manual and not understand how to begin using our new product. As a business, that’s the last thing you want as well; you want your new users to quickly and easily be able to set up their new purchase and begin using it.
Given this, instruction manuals are one of the most critical elements of a purchase, but creating them can be difficult. For example, will you use images to guide your users through set-up, or rely solely on text? Will you display your brand personality, or be as straightforward and serious as possible?
Whichever route you choose, you should create your guides for one common denominator: your customers. If you’re feeling confused about how to create your own, looking for inspiration, or simply hoping to see what else is out there, read on to discover examples of high-quality instruction manuals from real-life businesses and what makes them so effective.
Enjoyable & Effective Instruction Manuals
Tushy provides consumers with environmentally friendly bidets for at-home use. As it deals with a subject that many may be shy to speak about out loud (bathroom needs), Tushy aims to make users feel comfortable through their unique, humorous brand personality — and incorporates this humor into their instruction guide, as shown in the image below.
We like Tushy’s instruction manual because it uses brand personality to make people feel more comfortable about a sensitive subject (bathroom needs) through humorous statements , like “Know your Tushy.” These jokes help establish a connection with readers, making them feel supported and seen.
Along with the humor, Tushy clearly lays out setup instructions and ensures that users clearly understand how to use their new product through follow-along photos and clear and concise copy.
What we can learn from Tushy:
While you likely aren’t selling bidets, Tushy shows us that it’s essential to establish a connection with your audience, even in your instruction guides, so they feel comfortable and supported by your business.
SharkNinja is a houseware company that sells kitchen appliances and cookware. Ninja® Foodi™, a 2:1 air fryer and pressure cooker, comes with an incredibly practical instruction manual that guides users beyond the set-up process by providing timed cooking guides and full-length recipes (as shown in the image below).
SharkNinja’s instruction manual is highly effective because of the included recipes. It helps users set up their product and provides actionable next steps and inspiration for how to actually use the product — much more helpful than learning how to turn the appliance on and off.
What we can learn from SharkNinja:
This brand shows us that an instruction manual can be more than just a manual, as it can provide users with actionable ideas on how to actually put your product to use. For example, if you’re a SaaS business, your instructional guide may teach users how to set up a blog in your CRM, along with possible ideas for first blog posts or additional resources to help them get started with their writing.
IKEA, a furniture retailer, is well-known for its products and accompanying instruction manuals. The image below is an example of the first-page instruction manual for Poang, an armchair frame.
It’s a common conception that long-winded chunks of text are hard to follow in instruction guides. If I buy a product with a manual like that, I usually just go on YouTube and find a set-up video from an unrelated third party. IKEA recognizes this consumer sentiment, and its guides are effective because they focus on illustrated walkthroughs and 3D figures of products.
In the image above, the user can easily deduce what IKEA is saying without even reading any words: Use a manual screwdriver instead of an electric drill, build your product on a soft surface, and call IKEA if you’re struggling.
The illustrations in IKEAs manuals are also from the perspective of the person assembling furniture, making it easier to connect the dots and figure out what goes where. Centering images in their guides is also helpful for global users as clear image instructions can be universal — hence IKEA’s presence in 59 countries.
What we can learn from IKEA:
Not all businesses can create guides that are entirely free of text, but most companies can use images to complement text so users can visualize how something should look when setting it up.
Pro Tip: You can automatically capture screenshots for your guide with HubSpot's free Guide Creator. It also creates labeled, step-by-step instructions customized to your audience.
Zappos is an online retailer for accessories, shoes, and clothing for adults and children. The image below is an instructional guide it has created for consumers buying shoes for kids.
Zappos’ Kids Shoe Size Chart works because it uses humor to establish a connection with those buying shoes for children by acknowledging how challenging it can be through a “We’re in this together” type tone. For example, “Alrighty, this process should be relatively painless, we hope.”
Zappos also anticipates possible follow-up questions users may have, like “What if my measurements are two different sizes?” or “How do I know if I printed this document to the correct size?” and provides answers, all within the same instructional sheet.
What we can learn from Zappos:
One of the most effective things Zappos does in its instruction manual is anticipating possible customer questions.
As a business, take note of common questions your service and support teams may receive from customers in the onboarding process and consider including call-outs to those questions in your guides. This helps consumers to immediately get the information they need without an additional step.
Over to you
Your instructional guides are meant to guide your users through the process of setting up your product and leaving them ready for success. Take note of the key features that make the instruction manuals from the brands mentioned above highly effective, and use their strategies as inspiration for your own business.