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How to Choose the Best Instructional Design Tool

How to Choose the Best Instructional Design Tool


Instructions are super important. But making good instructions can be hard - especially with the wrong tools. In this article, we're zooming in on how to choose the best instructional design tool.

3 March 2022

Did you know that people forget about 75% of the information they get in a training session within 6 days? This is a huge problem for training managers. To solve it, many will rely on best practices, like applying instructional design principles in their training materials. 

Instructional design is the practice of methodically designing, creating, and sharing instructional materials so that they are easy to use and internalize. We’ve shared some examples of what instructional design looks like in practice. But you’re probably wondering: do you have the right tool to create materials with instructional design principles built in? 

Today, most companies are still creating training materials with Word documents, spreadsheets, or PowerPoint presentations. These are not effective instructional design tools. 

Sometimes, they use video tutorials. The problem with video is that it’s not very effective for on-the-job learning. 

Let’s explore some of these pitfalls in more detail. 

The downside of spreadsheets, PDFs, and Word documents 

Spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and (PDF) documents are the most common starting point to capture training materials, work instructions, and Standard Operating Procedures. That’s because they are widely used throughout the business and they carry zero to no investment costs.

The problem with these tools is that they are not designed to help people retain information. Much less to access instructions quickly on the shop floor. In most cases, employees have to leave their immediate work area and access how-tos on a PC, or they print them to have them at hand. Paper-based training materials are cumbersome to work with, and they can easily become outdated. You don’t want a training manual that’s no longer accurate to be circling around. 

The alternative is viewing these docs on their phone instead. But as most of us have experienced, reading a PDF or a Word document on mobile is not very easy. When companies exhaust these familiar tools, they might look at video tutorials as a solution.

How to choose instructional design tool - downside of Word instructions

Video tutorials and their pitfalls

Let’s say you purchase a new machine for your factory. The day it arrives, you might gather employees together to show them a video of how it works. This video might provide high-level information about the machine and some general best practices to use it.

Will employees remember everything? Probably not.

Video sets the pace of learning for the user. So it’s not very effective as an instructional tool. Micro videos are usually fine if the task is simple enough (one step). The best practice, however, is to supplement them with short, text-based instructions. And to let people access the instructions exactly when and where they need them. With video, it’s hard to facilitate this because people have to go back and forth to find what they need. 

Video files also tend to be slow to load due to their big size. They are difficult to update and edit if processes change which can block continuous improvement. Scaling video instructions across markets and languages tends to be cumbersome since content needs to be retaken in different languages to localize the videos. 

How to choose instructional design tool - consequence of video instructions

Choosing your new instructional design tool

Research tells us that the best way for people to learn is by doing. To retain knowledge, people need to apply it in real-world situations almost immediately. You need a more nimble tool to facilitate this.

Dedicated instructional design tools like SwipeGuide can help you create and distribute your training materials and instructions in an easy way. Instructions created with SwipeGuide allow your team to learn hands-on and execute at the moment. 

Use this high-level checklist when choosing an instructional design tool:

  • An easy-to-use, drag and drop content management system that enables you to create and edit instructions quickly. 
  • Multi-language support, so employees can read your training materials in their language if needed. 
  • Good support for clear visuals, like gifs and multiple image formats that you can markup and edit. For instance, to increase the visual focus on an image, add a pointer or crop out irrelevant information. 
  • Cross-platform publishing, so you can make instructions accessible through wearables or a mobile app.
  • Easy version control, so you can track any changes made by editors and keep your instructions current. 
  • Feedback collection, so you can ask team members to submit ideas for improvement or inconsistencies in your materials. 
  • Built-in analytics, so you can track usage and see the time spent on each step, instruction, and topic, while monitoring completion rates. 

SwipeGuide offers this and many other features. Our solution was built with instructional design at its core. Schedule a demo to see it in action. 


Gloria crafts content about how the world’s top companies are rethinking how to write digital work instructions. Check out the rest of her articles to learn how innovative work instruction software can improve manufacturing processes.

3 March 2022