Topic-based Authoring Software for User Manual Creation—5 Major Benefits

Posted by Julie Reynolds on Monday, 11 September 2017

As a company's product line grows and product sales expand into different countries, so does the amount of product documentation that comes with those products. Keeping all of those documents up-to-date can become a nightmare—fast. Luckily, there's a solution for this problem. In this blog, we focus on the benefits of using topic-based authoring for user manual creation.

Writing content that is helpful to your consumer isn't an easy task. It takes proper planning and organization of the topics to make it easy for the reader to follow and digest. Topic-based authoring improves the workflow of user manual content creation by allowing technical writers to create, reuse, translate and distribute the content in a more organized and efficient way.

In a nutshell:

  • Topic-based authoring is a method of putting chunks of documentation into topics. 
  • A topic is the smallest amount of instruction or information that allows for the successful completion of a task, or that provides basic knowledge of a concept.
  • A topic-based authoring software is a tool that helps bring all of this together for better content creation.

Using a topic-based authoring program to create content for user manuals is a departure from traditional methods. And as a departure from the traditional, product developers and technical writers must focus on the “big picture” to fully grasp the many ways that this method will facilitate content reuse and distribution.

So how can your company benefit from a topic-based authoring software? Below are five major perks to consider.

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Topics: Expert Insights, Technical Communication

Informative Manuals Enhance Brand Loyalty

Posted by Vicky Hancock on Friday, 9 June 2017

The experience your customer has with your product directly affects your bottom line. An effective manual empowers your customers by educating them about your product, which leads to satisfied customers who are more likely to return and become loyal brand advocates.

A manual that only focuses on complying with specific codes regulations will certainly meet industry standards, but providing a manual that focuses on arming your customer with the information they need to successfully interact with your product, can enhance their overall experience with your brand.

A customer's initial interaction with a product and its user manual is critical. Between online reviews, social media and word of mouth, today's consumers have more outlets to vocalize their experiences than ever before.

Positive experiences can significantly enhance a brand's reputation, but negative experiences can spell disaster for a brand's image. In fact, marketing research has discovered that it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.

Satisfied customers who have had good encounters with a brand have a tendency to spread the word and refer others who may need that product or service.

This blog focuses on the user manual as an opportunity to educate your customers to provide a better user experience and therefore result in improved brand loyalty.

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Topics: Expert Insights, Technical Communication

8 Things Your Customers Want (And Expect) From A User Manual

Posted by Vicky Hancock on Thursday, 4 May 2017

If your company is focusing too much time and energy responding to product inquiries and managing service requests, it might be time to redirect your focus and take a hard look at your product documentation (user manuals).


To develop effective user manuals, you must understand how the information might be interpreted and used by the customer.

We, as consumers, bring with us our past experiences and misinformation, which may cause us to use or care for a product in a way that is inconsistent with what the manufacturer intended.

So, it requires an exceptionally effective user manual to overcome these influences and allow the facts to prevail.


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Topics: Technical Communication, Checklists

How to Choose the Right Product Documentation Partner

Posted by Vicky Hancock on Friday, 21 April 2017

In business as in life, choosing the right partner can make all the difference. A successful partnership with the RIGHT technical communications team will result in product documentation that is worthy of both your product and your valued customers. 


You've designed an exciting new product, and your high-quality product deserves an equally high-quality manual

You are interested in working with a technical writer to develop this manual, and you want to explore how your company could benefit from partnering with a technical communications team for all your product documentation needs.

But how do you choose the right team?

To get the most benefit from the partnership, it is crucial to understand the team's expertise, their documentation development process and how they will work with your team.

This blog examines the criteria to use for evaluating technical communication specialists to ensure their experience and commitment to quality align with your expectations.


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Topics: Technical Communication, How To's

Technical Writers—Translating the Language of Engineers

Posted by Vicky Hancock on Thursday, 30 March 2017

Technical writers play an important product development role, with perhaps their most important role being that of translator—taking complex engineering concepts and procedures and making them easy to understand.


Working as a tech writer for the past 16 years, I've had the opportunity to collaborate with highly skilled engineers to develop documentation for products they have helped design. 

Engineers want the end user to appreciate the products and also have the knowledge to use them appropriately.

For those of us with less mechanical and electrical knowledge, it can be challenging to fully understand the complex processes required for a product to operate as intended.

So what can be done?

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Topics: Expert Insights, Technical Communication

Bitmaps vs. Line Art—Are You Making the Right Choice for Your Manuals?

Posted by Julie Reynolds on Monday, 13 March 2017

Bitmaps and line art are two main file types that you may be considering for your product documentation. This blog will explain the primary differences between these two graphic types and the pros and cons to each.


According to an article in Technical Communication entitled "Illustrations in User Manuals: Preference and Effectiveness with Japanese and American Readers", studies show that "users comprehend more information and perform better with instructional materials that contain illustrations."

Graphics in manuals can appear in many formats including: line drawings, symbols, icons, photographs, illustrations, charts, tables and graphs. Adding high quality, professionally produced imagery that clearly correlates to the step-by-step instructions can add dimension and help the reader visualize processes and concepts that would otherwise be difficult to understand.

On the other hand, using poor quality graphics can have negative effects. It can cause confusion when readers try to interpret the manual instructions, increase the number of service calls your business receives, degrade the experience of the user and lower the reader's opinion of your brand.

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Topics: Expert Insights, Technical Communication

Do Your Manuals Reflect the Quality of Your Product?

Posted by Vicky Hancock on Thursday, 2 March 2017

The user manual is not only a vital piece of communication between you and your customers, it is a critical early impression of your product and brand. 

An image of a man on the phone looking frustrated while holding a user manual.

"Everything your customers see and touch says something about your business and tells part of your story." [Source]


This sentiment resonated with me because I thought how aptly it applies to what I do everyday as a technical writer who develops user manuals.

Each and every aspect of a manual—from the accuracy of the content, to the formatting and detailed graphics, to the paper it’s printed on—is a reflection of the product as well as the brand. In order to convey the appropriate message, it must receive the same level of care, attention and dedication that engineers devote to the technology and design of the product. 

The user manual should be viewed as an extension of the product that directly affects a customer’s user experience. Therefore, providing quality product documentation can only serve to enhance a company’s reputation. Consider your manuals. Do they mirror the quality of your product and provide your customers with helpful information?

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Topics: Expert Insights, Technical Communication

Don't Make This Big Mistake When Planning Your National Sales Meeting!

Posted by Jay Coy on Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Developing a memorable and impactful theme for your national sales meeting is so much more than just coming up with a clever slogan.

You're sitting in the first of many planning meetings for your upcoming sales meeting, and the first topic on the agenda is to "Select the theme." So everyone starts throwing around ideas until you land on something everyone likes. Then you move on.

Let's back up. You want your meeting to have impact, but a fun logo or clever slogan can't deliver that on its own. You need something bigger, something that goes deeper.

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Topics: Corporate Meetings, Expert Insights

Blockbuster or Big Waste of Money? Which Will Your National Sales Meeting Be?

Posted by Jay Coy on Thursday, 29 December 2016

Expert tips for keeping your next national sales meeting in the black and your sales force red hot.

National sales meetings (NSMs) can come with a big price tag. There are planning and preparation costs, transportation and lodging costs, corporate staff time, entertainment and guest speaker costs, production and vendor costs...

It's critical that an NSM achieves meaningful results to justify the spend.

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Topics: Corporate Meetings, Expert Insights

The Champions Playbook for a Slam Dunk National Sales Meeting

Posted by Jay Coy on Wednesday, 23 March 2016


Putting on a National Sales Meeting is like coaching in a championship basketball game. It's an opportunity to gather your team to make adjustments, clarify objectives and build momentum. (Tweet This). In order to pull off a win, you need practice, a strong game plan (strategy), and focused execution. 

With over 30 years of experience, Fire & Rain has competed in many big games, "coaching" businesses and organizations to championship moments. There's nothing we haven't already encountered before. We know what it takes to plan and execute a successful corporate meeting. Use this playbook as a guide to make sure your next sales meeting is a slam dunk!

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Topics: Corporate Meetings, Beginner's Guides