We should never miss an opportunity to surprise, delight and inform our customers. We all know this is true. So why do so many consumer goods companies annoy, irritate and disappoint the people who buy their products moments after unboxing by providing near-useless instructions? 
The answer to this is often that instructions are often overlooked as a key customer touchpoint. This is clearly underlined by the fact that, in the consumer products space, 40% of all after sales contact is related to bad instructions.


In Marketing, the ”customer journey” is used to describe the process of interaction between your company or brand with your customers. This journey is used to identify touchpoints and design experiences.

At SwipeGuide our aim is to help companies help their customers. We have developed a tool we call the Instruction Journey to highlight the process which their customers experience when related to product instructions. This Instruction Journey highlights the stages of the customer journey, creating an instructions UX which relate to the information needed and instructions required.

Let’s break these steps down:

  1. Orientation – customers want to get pre-purchase information about your products. It’s easy to find basic information online, but real product user experiences are often scarce. Offering potential customers access to good instructions can help them make a well-informed buying decision. This leads to happier customers giving a nice touch in the customer journey.

  2. Pre-Use – once your customers have ordered the product they can’t wait to use it. Once the box has shipped, getting the instructions in advance can help them get prepared  to set the beginning of instructions UX. We call this the pre-use instruction phase. Although they haven’t got their hands on it yet, they can already start in-depth learning and instructing themselves about the product.
  3. First Use –after unboxing comes first use. Good instructions are key at this point as most customers want to get started straight away. Give your customers a great first user experience by guiding them well in their very first steps.
  4. Advanced Use – at a certain point, customers want to do something more advanced with your product. This requires deeper instructions about how to use these features.
  5. Changed Use – there are many products on the market that get updates (software, for example). When this happens, things change and customers need help handling this.
  6. Maintenance – products need to be maintained properly to ensure optimal product experience. Frequent servicing or parts that need timely replacing. When this happens, you actively want to connect with your customers to prevent product defects, claims or service calls.
  7. Troubleshooting – where is that (bleep!) manual when I need it? That is often the first question when troubleshooting. Your customer faces an issue with your product and can’t solve it without help. In that case, easy to locate and good instructions help prevent helpdesk calls, product returns and customer frustration.

How to use this: It is important to understand that these different phases exist when designing your instructions. The needs of customers are quite different in every step of the Instruction Journey (similar to the steps of customer journey) and you need to take that into account. This not only has an impact on content, it also influences the instructions UX, the channel, and mechanism you use to bring your instructions to users. We call these activation tactics and they vary with each step as well. The aim is to get the right instructions to the right user at the right moment.

In the orientation phase, this might be a deep link in an e-commerce platform. In the advanced use phase, it could be image recognition of the device that the user has questions about. The ultimate goal is to create an instruction journey that helps customers seamlessly in all stages of product usage. And if possible, surprise, delight and inform them at the same time as well…

Our gift for you: The Instruction Journey Canvas: download this great canvas and start analyzing your Instruction Journey improving the instructions UX of your customers.

Download the instruction journey Canvas here