Ok, so I cheated and chose a title for this post that would grab your attention. But there's a good reason. You see, writing a user manual is a tricky business. You have to inform your customers in an accurate way, and help them struggle through any tedious tasks.
That can't be all you do. If you don't put in any effort to engage your readers, you may just lose your most important customers.
Think about it... most of us are just putting out fires. We get into the habit of writing documentation that has a highly professional (ahem... "boring") tone, and we write it in a very disconnected manner because most users just want a quick fix. I've been guilty of promoting this approach myself, because it does meet the needs of many users.
However, it doesn't meed the needs of the most important users of your products.
For example, I know a certain kid who loves video games. When he gets a new game, the first thing he does is read the manual from front to back. That way, when he begins playing, he already has a full understanding of that game. It immediately increases his ability to play the game to its fullest, and appreciate it, even if the game is complicated. In other words...
...he becomes a power user.
...he becomes a product evangelist.
...he becomes a loyal customer because he experienced the full potential of the product.
If a user manual isn't written in an engaging manner, how many potential power users are you sacrificing? Sure, you'll get some people back on track using basic features, but will any of these users ever develop a full understanding of more complicated features without reading overview information?
Give users a full and engaging story to understand. Or expect that they will only ever have a partial understanding of your product, and less loyalty when a competing product crosses their path.
If you enjoyed this, you might also like: 22 tips for writing software documentation users will actually read.