The difference between good instructions and bad (see the above photo) often boils down to whether or not the author has taken the time to really consider the audience. In the picture above, the instructions have clearly been translated, but poorly. The author clearly did not consider an English speaking audience while translating and editing those instructions. On the flip side, here is a set of easy to follow instructions from Wikihow.com on how to dance. The author of this wiki clearly has a good grasp on the audience. All of the pictures are easy to understand, and the instructions themselves are easy to follow and understand. Creating documents and instructions which are easily accessible to a broad range of people is very important for technical communication. A lot of times in instruction manuals, you have to flip through several pages of information that would be better suited at the end of the manual. “Early communication reduces later resistance,” says Hibbard in her article about change and resistance to policy/procedure writing.
One way to ensure the success and effectiveness of a manual or how to guide is to test it on people beforehand. This is known as the “feedback-driven model”(Ceraso 240). This will most likely require a lot of extra work and time depending on the complexity of the process you are trying to break down. For instance, “a manual for a complex product might require extensive usability testing”(Ceraso 240). Yet even testing to this degree will not solve all of your problems since d”developers cannot possibly anticipate all the needs, practices, and activities that users will find for technologies”(Ceraso 245). Yet this should not be something to fear. Technical writing will always have some way in which it can be improved upon. This should be looked at as a challenge: to try and create the most functional document for the correct audience.
Chapter 10 in “Solving Problems in Technical Communication.” How Can Technical Communicators Plan for Users by Antonio Ceraso