Want to write effective website instructions?

I gave up on buying a piece of anti virus software last week because the online buying and payment instructions were so frustrating. Which goes to show that instructions aren’t just instructions. They’re a part of your brand, often critical to a good customer experience. Get in wrong and they’ll leave a lasting negative impression.

So how do you make sure your website instructions actually instruct, not just infuriate?

Write like you’ve never seen your stuff before

Instructions get confusing when the writer is intimately familiar with the process and sees each step as blindingly obvious. The big thing to remember is: whatever the medium, create your instructions from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about the product or service. While a percentage of people will be familiar with your stuff, many won’t be.

Write to the lowest common denominator

  • be brief
  • be accurate
  • use strong, clear calls to action
  • order the information logically and intuitively
  • use plain language
  • if you can’t avoid using jargon, explain what you mean
  • provide help for people who get lost or confused – an email address or phone number

Then, before you press the button, get your mate, mum, granny or neighbour to test your draft instructions for sanity!