Instructions are part of our everyday life. We use them to inform us of how to do something. Poorly designed instructions result in frustration and incomplete tasks. One area where instructions are vital to understand and follow are hospitals. As they have a complex equipment and procedures, it is vital that instructions are perfect. A lot of research has gone into the field of Cognitive Load Theory which is all about how we think, how we remember and how we are using that information to come up with better instructions or delivery of information.
As humans, we have something called the ‘working memory’ which is like temporary memory. Going down to the shops and trying to remember what to get is an example of ‘working memory’ being used. With instructions, if the viewer has to read a lot of text, remember diagrams / images and legends, their working memory can become overwhelmed and become confused. This example below shows instructions on repairing an engine part. There is a before image and an after image where a redesign has been put in place.
The redesign may seem more messy and cluttered. However this redesign uses the principle of proximity. This states that any elements close to each other are perceived by the viewer as being closely related. This can be seen with the diagram and text.
Photographs are not recommended for instructional design as there is to much or to little information in each photograph making it difficult to make out what is happening in each frame. This example below shows two designs in place. One is illustrated and the other is photographed.
As you can see, the illustrations show clearly what the person is holding, what force he is applying to the objects and what the results are for doing these tasks. The photographs are a bit hard to make out what is happening. Is he arm wrestling or is he looking out the window? Is he pulling or pushing the door, etc. Isolating the main points for the user to read helps the reader see clearly what actions to take and how to perform them.
There are 4 kinds of interaction:
Instruction – by clicking buttons
Conversation – back and forth dialog
Manipulation – drag and drop elements
Exploration – open, playful, game like
Instructions, although simple, can be very hard to design correctly. Knowing the target audience and context helps the development of the instructional. Using images is never a good idea, as details such as movements can be lost or not seen clearly. Illustrations help provide more information to the viewer, giving them more understanding of a certain situation.
Featured Image: Kehoe, A. (2017). Instructional Design. Retrieved from https://sites.dartmouth.edu/ashleykehoe/instructional-design/