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When I unbox a new coffee machine I want to be able to make my first cappuccino and not learn how to clean the machine, right? You would think so, but I regularly come across manuals and instructions that fail to keep it simple.
“Put the customer first! Improve the customer experience!” is today’s corporate mantra, so why do so many overlook the fact that the product instruction manual is a key touchpoint in that customer’s experience? And that certainly doesn’t mean starting the manual with a flood of legal warnings, recycling information and other irrelevant stuff that shows wrong instructional design decisions.

Unfortunately, most manuals are just boring technical product descriptions and the first thing which people throw aside after getting a rough idea of how the product works. At SwipeGuide we think this is a missed opportunity to inspire and inform your customers.

We aim to help you change this by using ‘Outside-In Instructional Design’ in order to create instructions. Our key goal is to help companies create better, user-centric guides and manuals by following a clear five-stage method and adding a bit of empathy into the mix.

This certainly isn’t a guarantee for success, but it does structure the process from the customers’ point of view. Here’s a quick run-down of our method for you to create instructions.

The action-oriented approach

Our approach follows 5 clear stages:

  1. Task Mapping
  2. Break up tasks in steps
  3. Information mapping
  4. Visuals briefing
  5. Guide production

Stage 1: Task mapping

We start with mapping & structuring tasks. This is the first step of the instructional design. Determine all things a user wants to do with a product. Brainstorm to find all relevant tasks and don’t worry, you can structure them later.

Try to describe the tasks in an active way. It works well to combine a verb and noun, like “Replace shaving head”. If you use the terms familiar to users it will be easier for them to find the right instruction later. When you have listed all relevant tasks and subtasks you can start structuring them in order to achieve the rightinstructional design.

This structuring includes grouping tasks into topics and sequencing the topics and tasks. You can use the Instruction Journey to analyse which tasks are relevant at which point in the journey. This helps to create a manual with a logical sequence of tasks.

Tools: Instructional Design Canvas & Instruction Journey

Stage 2: Break up tasks in steps

Once you have the whole task structure mapped out you can start to create instructions by defining the steps per task. Every task consists of a series of steps that a user needs to take in order to get from the “initial state” to the “desired state”.

You also need to write steps in an active way. Be directive and address the user. “Press the release button on the back of the shaving head”, is an example of this. Again use a verb and a noun and point the user in the right direction.

Try to avoid combining 2 steps in 1. This is confusing for users. If a task has too many steps think of ways to break it up. Also avoid adding information at this point. Just focus on the right description of each step. We’ll add information blocks in the next stage.

Want to read on? Download the whole white-paper.