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Manuals That Keep Your Support Costs Down

The percentage of unread manuals in any office or house is astonishing. Laziness, bad reading skills on the part of consumers, lack of time, or any number of unquantifiable factors enters into this. Many manufacturers overlook one of the major problems, though: Their manuals are just plain bad. The fallout from a bad manual is greater than many companies ever consider: needless calls to their customer service people, unnecessary returns of products to the factory or to the retailer, and, worst of all, sufficient frustration on the part of the consumer to make them reluctant to ever buy another product from that same maker, or perhaps even to avoid the retailer who sold the product.

No product is complete without documentation that tells the end user exactly what it can do, and explains its functions, applications, and benefits clearly and concisely--in language easily understood by the average person, and not just an engineer or technician.

In any manual we develop, the integration of text and graphics is vital to explaining functions and features, and the optimum method of getting the user inside the product as quickly as possible. We live in an extremely visually oriented world, and people can find and retain information quickly when they don't have to rely solely on text. At Tom Mulhern & Associates, we use photos and create illustrations that illuminate and amplify the concepts presented in the text.

A manual accompanying any product, whether it's hardware or software, must be as good as the product, and in some cases, better, because it must not only guide the consumer in using the product, but it must also instill in him or her a feeling of "I bought the right thing from the right company."

Good manuals must be clear and compact, and they often must be targeted at an audience that isn't 100% defined. It's a tall order. In addition, manuals can take different forms: paper or online. Each has its own life, its own organization, and its own advantages. While paper manuals are a "must" with any product, online manuals provide something unique: the "never lose it" factor. How many times have you had a problem with something (VCR or other programmable device, for instance) and couldn't find the manual. It's Sunday evening, and you know it won't help to call the manufacturer's customer support hotline. An online manual doesn't require much space or maintenance, plus it's always accessible to customers and can be updated quickly, unlike paper manuals, which take up warehouse space, cost money to print and mail, and aren't easily (or cost-effectively) updated.

We've produced manuals for many companies, including Rivera Research & Development, Seymour Duncan, and A.R.T. (Applied Research & Technology). All were originally designed for print, but many have been repositioned on the Internet as HTML or PDF documents, providing instant 24x7 access to anyone who wants them.

Here are a few samples. Note: Some are extremely large (greater than 2MB), so if you don't have a high-speed Internet connection, you may just want to view the smaller samples.

Zon Guitars User's Guide (HTML)

Zon Guitars User's Guide (PDF - 260KB)

Rivera KnuckleHead 2 Guitar Amplifier Manual (PDF - 1.8MB)

A.R.T. ProGate User's Manual (5.9MB PDF)

A.R.T. Extreme (guitar processor) User's Guide (4.3MB PDF)

Rivera R100-212 User's Manual (2MB PDF)

Sample page from Rivera R100-212 User's Manual, page 6 (144k PDF)

Sample page from Rivera R100-212 User's Manual, page 7 (260k PDF)

Sample page from Rivera R100-212 User's Manual, page 11 (56k PDF)

Sample page from Rivera R100-212 User's Manual, page 13 (52k PDF)

Sample page from Rivera R100-212 User's Manual, page 15 (60k PDF)

Sample page from Rivera R100-212 User's Manual, page 16 (68k PDF)

Sample page from Rivera R100-212 User's Manual, page 18 (76k PDF)

Note: If you don't have Acrobat Reader, or if you need a new version, you can get it for free from Adobe at:


© 2003 Tom Mulhern & Associates