Showing and Not Telling: Creating Useful User’s Guides

by Greg Crandell

Recently, a team of employees and I sat down to talk about supplemental information for our newest product, My Virtual StrongBox. Among other things, one of the suggestions that really took wing was an illustrated user’s guide that our clients could distribute to their consumers. The product’s pretty self-explanatory, for the most part, but the guide focuses on ways to maximize the amount of storage you’re given and manage your files more efficiently. Our creative team is working on it right now.

As a father of college-aged youngsters, I spent many a move-in day putting together some flimsy bookshelf. One thing that I noticed was how helpful it was to have an assembly guide that gave detailed drawings of the screws, pegs, and tiny wrenches I’d need for each step. “Insert screw-type B into slot 12 and turn counter-clockwise until flush with the cam” isn’t as clear-cut as a picture of all those pieces coming together.

When I got my smart phone, the instruction booklet had a hand that was tapping on various apps and setting up different modes and settings using sliders. If you’ve ever used a Mac, you know that the menu for multi-touch gestures has little videos next to each option that show exactly what those gestures are and how they work. It’s very informative and shows new users how to use two fingers instead of a two-button mouse.

Technology obviously benefits from easy-to-read, illustrated guides. Could finance? Is there a process you’re constantly explaining to customers and members that could benefit from an illustrated, simple guide that’s easy to understand?

Three ideas I had for an illustrated user’s guide:

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