I want to be clear before I start: the people that are writing these instructions are not to blame.
That they took their time and effort to put together any instructions is amazing. It takes experts days if not weeks to make a good set of instructions. I assume that user testing is involved too. And we all know that it is all too common to get incomplete or incoherent instructions with pre-packaged products. Passing on information to an unknown audience is a hard skill to master.
The thing I’ve noticed when looking at and using instructions provided by the net is the wide range of quality. The assumed skill levels are all across the board. The level of detail can be a set of notes to the detailed reasons why something works. Multimedia can help or distract. This is all expected given the wide range of skills of DIYers.
The book made me realize that, with a simple checklist, the quality of the instructions could improve greatly.
The checklist should be a DO-CONFIRM one. After you’ve written the instructions, confirm you have done the items on the list. A READ-DO checklist seems impractical for a creative endeavor like this.
So, what would be a good list? Everyone will have different ideas, but here’s my straw man:
- Is your target audience specified?
- Are the instructions written so the target audience can understand them?
- Are all the tools, parts, and materials needed listed?
- Are the assumed or required skills listed?
- For alternate steps, do you list a preferred approach?
As I was writing this I noticed that it’s been a month since the last posting. I have not built up a queue of posts like I wanted. Most of my time has been going into developing and the administrivia of setting up a company (from legal to IT to dealing with office space issues).