Posted on December 8, 2016 · Posted in Technical Translations

One of the most overlooked causes of customer dissatisfaction and product returns is an inability to understand how to use the item. There are many reasons for such a lack of understanding, but for most consumer products, it boils down to an instruction manual that was somehow inadequate. Here are some ways to ensure that your product’s manual will explain everything in a way that can be understood by almost everyone:

Ensure That Written Portions Make Sense

It is a sad fact that manuals that are translated overseas can end up being gibberish. Even if they are meant to explain simple things, such as how to turn on a device, customers won’t be able to understand them if they don’t use the right words. Whether you’re importing products from China or sending your U.S.-made products out to the Netherlands, you need to get a proper technical translation service to handle the language aspect. This alone will ensure that the results will at least be readable in the target language.

When using a translation service, one of the keys is to make sure that they have real people do the work. Machine translation still produces gibberish for many languages. It also can’t understand nuance. Actual humans know which word to use in which situation not just because they know the vocabulary of both languages, but also because they know about context and social factors.

Consider Translating Your Manuals and Spec Sheets Into Multiple Languages

In some countries, there are significant numbers of people who don’t speak the nation’s main tongue. Don’t forget about them! Choose the top two or three languages in your marketing area to maximize your product’s pool of potential buyers.

Assume Your Buyers Know Nothing About Your Product

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to assume that their customers have used the type of product in question at some prior point. Always remember that there is a first time for everything – even for things you might think of as mundane. As an example, consider a toaster. Someone who is moving into their first house or apartment will probably be used to using their parents’ toaster, but will not have had the chance to play with the settings to see what they all do. Upon getting their own place, and a toaster to go in it, that person will need a manual to tell exactly what everything does. By writing your manuals as if you’re always talking to first-time users, you’ll cover all of the bases.

It’s easy to create a great manual if you’re the one sending products out of the country. You can make it as simple and detailed as you need to and then have it translated. When products are coming in, on the other hand, it’s just a bit more involved. You’ll need the original text turned into English so you can read it, and if the results aren’t to your liking, you’ll need to have it rewritten. Then, if you’re sending the products on to some other country, you’ll need your version to be translated into the next target language. However, all of this is worth it thanks to the resulting improvement in return rates.

Use Pictures

A picture may not always truly replace a thousand words, but for some technical subjects, it will definitely help. Try to have plenty of pictures to illustrate steps for assembly and usage. If the end user will need to find specific parts from a kit in order to get the product into operation, show enlarged line drawings of those parts as well.

Don’t Rely Solely on Images

Not everyone can look at a series of pictures and derive full meaning from them. Drawings should always be accompanied by written instructions and captions so that there is no doubt about what needs to be done. Be sure to have all text properly translated. There have been instances where everything except the captions were done, and this left the user with plenty of questions that could have been answered.

Use Sufficiently Large Fonts

One of the worst things to encounter is technical material that is printed so small that the would-be reader needs a strong magnifier just to see it! Be sure to go ahead and use enough paper to support a reasonably large font size. As a bonus, most people think that the actual material is easier when it is written large. If your company gets complaints that its material is “too hard” even though it should be understandable by a second grader, this is the problem. Pump up the font size and watch those complaints disappear.

Use Decent Paper

We all want to lower set costs like packaging and manual printing, but the quality of the paper is important to the psychological perception of product quality. To a customer, your item isn’t just the thing they officially bought – it’s a set that includes the box, the manual, any internal packaging, and finally, the product itself. Make sure all of these look and feel great. The manual is especially important. If it seems cheap, people will find it to be less trustworthy.

Adding it All Up

When all of these tips are taken into account, the end result is a product that people can understand and use even if they’ve never seen one before. This will reduce the number of returns caused by perceived difficulty, actual lack of customer understanding, and similar problems.

To make sure that the language portion of your technical manuals is perfect, you need an excellent translation service. Contact us to gain access to the level of expertise that you need.