A user manual should describe operating procedures for both manual and automated systems functions. The manual should cover user responsibilities, system inputs, computer system interfaces, manual files and databases, controls (including error detection and correction), distribution and use of system outputs, and manual and automated processing instructions. Good user manuals can improve system efficiency and effectiveness. If users know how to use a system properly and they employ it willingly, the system will be used more frequently, more correctly, and more productively.
The systems designer, the user, and the organization’s technical writing and training staff should cooperate in preparing the user manual. Because the systems designer knows intimately what the system will do, he or she is well qualified to describe how to use the system. The user, who must study the manual to learn the system and then keep the manual as a reference for continued operation of the system, must make sure that the manual is relevant for the tasks to be performed and that it is complete, accurate, and clear.
The organization’s training staff should be involved in preparing the manual because they must train users to operate the new system. The staff must learn the system themselves and develop separate training materials and/or use the user manual as the training vehicle. Therefore they are very interested in the user manual and should have input to its development.