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November 16, 2017 Professional WritingWork

How to Create Step-By-Step Instructions with Visuals

A few months ago, I wrote a post for five tips to create technical screencasts. Afterwards, I was ask by my former colleague Jessie to write a post for TechSmith about creating visuals for instructions.

Some highlights

Always consider your audience:

  • Are my readers already experts? Have they done this process before, if not exactly then in similar circumstances?
  • Are my readers internal or external? If my readers are within the same company, what language do we share that will help better explain the process?
  • What mood will they be coming to my content with? Am I creating this content for someone who is in a rush to get something done, or is this for a more casual learner who is just hoping to further their education on a topic?
  • What is most important to my readers? What is least important?
  • How do my readers prefer to learn? Do I know if a blog post is more successful than a video? Is there any analytical data to support these claims?
  • Are my readers native English speakers? If I use an idiom, will it hinder their ability to learn how to complete the process?

There are numerous types of visuals. Here’s a list of options and suggestions of where to use them:

  • Still image – this is the perfect medium when trying to visualize a physical product, be it a person or specific object like a type of pan. These can be stock photographs or photos you’ve taken.
  • Screenshot – a still image of your screen is great when talking about products that are seen on your computer, such as a website or another piece of software. They’re super easy to take and edit, especially thanks to Snagit.
  • GIF – animated images are perfect for explaining short processes (under 8 seconds) which may not be as easily articulated.
  • Chart – bar charts, pie charts, line charts, so many types of charts! A chart is the best choice when talking about and comparing a set of numbers.
  • Video – the ultimate visual, a video is great for explaining a process. How to make a great technical video is an art form which can certainly be helped by this process but requires much more planning. (Lucky for you, I learned a lot from TechSmith, and they have a lot more to say on the subject).

In this post, I give an example outline to strategically place visuals as well as talk through the importance of testing your instructions. For all of that great information, read the whole post on TechSmith’s blog.