Five tips for creating error-free technical documentation

Creating and translating technical documentation

Today, most products come with technical documents to assist the buyer with installation, use, and maintenance. In addition to the mandatory instructions required by law, customers want detailed instructions that can answer common questions about the product in a few minutes and help with minor problems without having to contact the manufacturer directly. Clear wording and well-structured sections make it easier to find the information users are looking for, and short presentations and sample applications are easy ways to make a user feel at ease. Here are a few tips for writing helpful technical documents for users.


1. short, clear structures and headings

A technical document is only of help to a user if the author of the document is aware of their target audience and the information that is likely to be needed. What is the target group? How much expertise does it have? Which terms are familiar to the readers and what needs further explanation? Clear, concise chapters and instructions can help guide the user through even multi-page manuals.


2. clear presentations and illustrations

A table of contents with useful keywords, is the best way for users to find information. When deciding which keywords should be used the focus should be on the readers‘ way of thinking and their most likely way of searching. Beginning with setup and initial operation, all further points should follow clearly one after the other and should contain only relevant information. Small information boxes in contrasting colours can help convey essential information at a glance.


3. screenshots & detailed drawings illustrate complex processes

A complete diagram of an engine is certainly very informative, but for a layman who is only looking for where the oil stick is, it can be confusing. The same applies to screenshots and detailed drawings, which are intended to explain one aspect of the product in more detail. Kept as simple as possible, they help the reader more quickly and a link or reference to another chapter can provide additional sources of information.


4. examples and videos

Videos are becoming more and more popular, because it is often easer to show how things work or how something happens than to describe it in text. A small user video is quickly made and can be integrated onto your own homepage or can even be used as an advertisement on well-known platforms. Examples are also a successful way to help users – helping them to see what the result of an action should be and to allow them to see the further possibilities of the product. In the case of software, screenshots are a real help for most users.


5. professional translations from a technical translation service

Creating good technical documentation takes time, but is valuable for both manufacturers and customers. If a product is destined for international markets, a high-quality translation is needed and in this instance a technical translation service is the best choice. A thorough technical understanding of a product is the basis for every good translation. A very factual, precise writing style and the ability to find synonyms that accurately reflect the content of the original document are key requirements when translating technical documentation. In this way, a product is optimally described and detailed presentations are maintained in every language.


About the author

Frédéric Ibanez

The editorial team, which is led by the founder of the group to which Alphatrad UK belongs, consists of experts who specialise in language services. Our goal is to regularly provide you with articles related to translation and language services, which will help you with your language services’ needs.

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