How Much Does a User Manual Cost?
09/12/2022 How we work
One of the first questions a potential customer often asks is “How much does a user manual cost?” Although this is a fair question, the answer can be rather difficult to give. It depends on multiple factors, such as the product type and the complexity of the product. As you will understand, a manual for a TV will cost more than a manual for a toaster, but less than a manual for a surgical robot.
In this article, I will provide some general pricing guidelines and explain the cost-effectiveness of manuals in general.
Fig. 1 The manual for this sensor for machinery (left) costs less than the manual for the in-vitro medical device (right)
Pricing factors to take into consideration
The price for creating a manual is often made up of the time/costs required for technical writing and creating technical illustrations (or other visuals). Added to this can be the time/costs for legal research, design, layout, content management, project management, and translations.
To give you an idea of how the price range for user manuals varies, we have worked on projects ranging from 750 euros all the way up to 80,000 euros. But usually the price is somewhere between 2,500 and 10,000 dollars or euros.
This is still a very wide range, so let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that determine what your manual will cost.
How product type & complexity affect costs
First of all, the product type and the complexity of the product are the main factors, as I mentioned before. There can be significant differences between product types such as machinery, medical devices, electronic equipment, or software.
Fig. 2 This TV mount is a less complex product than the machinery below
Fig. 3 This machine, a roof washer for greenhouses, is of above average complexity
How the format of the manual (print/online) affects costs
There are also price differences between printable and online user manuals, and if both are required there will be two sets of costs involved: the costs for the print manual, and often some additional costs for the online manual.
Fig. 4 For Vogel's Products we create print quick start guides and a safety sheet, plus full online manuals
When online manuals also need video instructions or even augmented reality (AR), this affects the costs as well.
Fig. 5 A 3D animation video sometimes explains the use or installation of a product better than a print manual
Fig. 6 Augmented reality used to explain how to replace spare parts
One of our areas of expertise is our legal knowledge, and the extent of legal advice required in the process will influence the total costs. For many products, there are legal requirements regarding the content of the user manual. A user manual for machinery must include different information than a user guide for a toy.
Fig. 7 An electric bike is classified as machinery and the user manual must comply with a long list of requirements as determined in regulations and product safety standards
Additionally, legal research might be needed to determine which parts of a user manual can legally be placed online.
If our legal advice is part of the technical writing, we charge a fixed rate of 95 euros per hour (2021 rate and subject to change) .
In the event that our legal advice requires specific research, such as determining applicable laws, which content can be placed online, or what should be printed for a specific product or market, we charge a fixed rate of 165 euros per hour (2021 rate and subject to change).
Illustrations or other visual elements are key to the effectiveness of certain manuals and will make up a considerable portion of the costs as well. The more illustrations are needed, the more expensive the creation of a manual will be.
Fig. 8 Line illustrations (Ikea-style) contribute to a more appealing user manual that is easier to understand
Finally, there are costs for translation into other languages. It is obligatory to translate a manual into the language of the country where the product is sold. The word count and the number of languages that are required determine the translation costs. We always aim to use as little text as possible by using Simplified Technical English.
Fig. 9 These instructions are translated into 26 languages
General pricing guidelines
When comparing different product types, instructions for use (IFUs) for medical devices are often, but not always, in the highest price range, due to the level of responsibility involved and the number of requirements on the instructions. T
There is no other industry where device safety is more important than the medical industry.
For example, the IFU for a surgical instrument needs to document not only how it should be used, but also how it needs to be sterilized in order to be used safely during each medical procedure.
Software can be a high-range product type as well, but it all depends on the comprehensiveness of the software product, which can vary significantly.
Machinery handbooks and manuals for electronic devices often fall in a lower price range than medical and software user manuals, as they require less time to create.
They can still be complex though. Take a handbook for an entire power plant or an assembly line, for instance; it will need to comprise all the required operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting instructions.
In the table below, you can find price indications per product type and manual type.
Fig. 10 Price indications per product type and manual type
The above table includes the price range for illustrations and, as you can see, it varies considerably. An illustration costs on average 90 euros or dollars, depending on the requirements and complexity of the illustration. For example, an illustration that shows the buttons on a washing machine is easier to create than one that shows a detailed step in the installation process of a factory robot.
To make the pricing system of our manuals clearer for our customers, we like to work with packages. Our packages combine several services, and typically our customers choose one of the following:
Fig. 11 Our packages, based on the level of support you want to offer your customers
What is the cost-effectiveness of a professionally made manual?
Of course, it is important to look at what a user manual is going to cost you. But another way to look at it is from the perspective of what that manual is going to bring you. Simply put, a poorly made manual, or no manual at all, will likely end up costing you more than a well-made one.
Increased customer satisfaction and reduced support costs
One key element is customer satisfaction. An effective manual allows customers to find the information they need easily and quickly. It helps them reach their goal with minimal or no involvement from your customer service or support team, allowing you to save considerable costs.
Full compliance and reduced liability
Compliance is another important factor. Issues with border control and market surveillance regulation are much less likely to occur when a product has a fully compliant manual. Moreover, it can significantly reduce your liability and potential legal costs related to product misuse, especially for products that could potentially cause severe injuries such as heavy machinery or high-voltage products.
Less printing and a lower carbon footprint
Other costs that shouldn’t be underestimated are printing costs for manuals. We can conduct the necessary research to determine exactly which parts of your manual can be published online. This can save your business thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of euros in printing costs each year, while reducing your carbon footprint at the same time.
When comparing the cost of creating user manuals with the benefits for your business, it becomes apparent just how cost-effective well-made manuals really are. Are you curious what a manual for your product would cost? Get in touch to discuss your project and request a quote.
For more information, read this comprehensive guide on frequently asked questions about our services.
Ferry Vermeulen is a technical communication expert and director at INSTRKTIV. It's Ferry’s mission to create digital user instructions for all products in the world. Listen to the INSTRKTIV podcast on Spotify or read one of his latest blog articles.Linkedin I Spotify I YouTube I Facebook I Twitter