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Instructional Design Work Instructions

5 Tips to Create Better User Manuals for your Workforce

10 min read - published on July 17, 2018

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Here's how to create better user manuals for the factory floor. Academic research empowers manufacturers to create truly user-focused work instructions.

Unclear work instructions are extremely impractical for both companies and end-users. On the factory floor, bad work instructions increase errors, product defects, and downtime. In fact, they usually create more problems than they solve. Traditional paper work instructions are frequently:

  •  Text-heavy
  • Difficult to understand or too abstract
  • Too technical
  • Not available when needed
  • Structured poorly
  • Difficult to edit and impossible to track
  • Not focused on the problems you want to solve

 

This is a recipe for disaster on the modern factory floor. Operators and engineers need a solution that delivers effective, usable knowledge at the moment of need.

Below, we’ll cover our five best practices on how to create a user manual for the factory floor that's truly user-centric.

 

1. Make it visual.

  • The human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than written information. Learners spend less time processing instructions when they include clear images.
  • Pair visuals with simple, direct text to make work instructions crystal clear and unambiguous.
  • Simple images eliminate the potential confusion and misinterpretation caused by written instructions. 
  • People learn best with focused static images or short gifs that clearly show the process being described.

 

 

visual work instructions

 

 

2. Be specific.

  • Give users real tasks. Keep instructions and steps [link write user manual] grounded in their daily work and empower on-the-job learning [learning by doing].
  • Ambiguity creates confusion and room for errors - which are unacceptable on the shop floor. Make sure that language is clear and direct, and avoid complex phrases, wordy sentences, and jargon wherever possible.
  • Keep visuals simple and to the point. Make sure the action is clearly demonstrated (include a model where possible) and minimize unnecessary details.

 

 

specific work instructions

 

 

3. Facilitate a Step-by-step approach.

  • Create steps that move a task from initial state to desired state - this is part of the action-oriented approach that leads a user through a task sequence.
  • Break each task into its smallest discrete components. Each step should have one action.
  • While steps need to guide users through a task, they should remain reasonably independent of one another - users need to be able to look back at an instruction and quickly scan for the necessary information without needing too much context.

 

 

step by step work instructions

 

 

4. Focus on the task.

  • Eliminate distracting or otherwise non-essential information from the steps.
  • Remember to always consider the end-user when you create a user manual.
  • Users should receive only the knowledge that they need to complete the task in a safe and efficient way.
  • Visuals should follow the same formula - only include images that relate to the task at hand.

 

 

Wearable - Alken

 

 

5. Accessibility is key.

  • Eliminate distracting or otherwise non-essential information from the steps.
  • Users should receive only the knowledge that they need to complete the task in a safe and efficient way.
  • Visuals should follow the same formula - only include images that relate to the task at hand.

 

distribute work instructions

 

We’ve gathered these best practices, backed by peer-reviewed research, to help your teams deliver the most effective work instructions possible. This information on instructional design will help you create a user manual that is practical for any application, but is especially effective on the factory floor.

 

Get in touch and we'll share more about what the SwipeGuide instruction software can offer your company.

published July 17, 2018

Annika

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