Ask yourself, when purchasing a new product, are you the person that tinkers with it to understand how to use it, or do you read the manual? Or conversely, how could you get more people to use your product while simultaneously increasing consumer satisfaction?
Studies show the 64% all of the users never read a product manual or prefer to use YouTube to look for guidelines on how to use a product. Not reading manuals usually means that support departments get overloaded with questions that are easily answered by reading the instructions or manual. Additionally, product returns increase when buyers find it difficult to understand how to use and/or setup/install what they have just bought.
A key example that many people are familiar with is assembling furniture from IKEA. Traditionally one would often end up with some spare parts after having read the manual and assembled the furniture. If this was by design or not, is something that is probably still a closely guarded secret by IKEA.
The challenge with manual production comes when you are starting to make products that are more complex and where the complications of misunderstanding a product can be a lot bigger than, say some extra screws. In these cases, the implications of misunderstanding how to use a product can be expensive or sometimes even dangerous.
Animating your product manual
Using CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) makes it possible to show how a product or service works on the inside and outside and how a user should interact with it. Animating the user interaction also makes it easier to illustrate everything: from how to use or assemble a product, to how a service works.
For example, Volvo cars use what they call animated quick guides to illustrate essential functions in their vehicles (see video below). Some benefits derived from this include decreased customer complaints, fewer calls to customer service and less unscheduled visits to service shops.
Another example is IKEA, which has taken the step and putting their manuals online:
Before even considering using any animations to illustrate how a product or service works; we would like to offer these pieces of advice:
If you have not previously worked with a production company or 3D agency, ask for references, both visual and customer references. Compare different companies regarding cost, output speed, and previous productions.
Make sure to specify what needs to be presented in detail. Use the production company for workshops to help with this if needed. Unclear specifications are otherwise typically where a production stalls and extra review rounds are necessary.
Ensure that there is a sign-off procedure for the deliverables internally.
Make sure that you have access to the source material and owns full intellectual property rights. Ensure correct access is important if you plan to use the material in other channels, contexts or countries later.
Just let us know if you want to know more about how to create product manuals for the digital generation.