Have you ever purchased a product that said, "Some assembly required" only to find that it should have said, "Some instructions included"? All too often we, as consumers, are given poorly constructed job aids because the creator of the job aid forgot one important detail—the audience. To set your trainees up for success, I'd like to offer five tips on creating user-friendly job aids.
1. Use simple language.
This technique involves using clear wording so the reader doesn't struggle with meaning. Instead of using lots of technical terms or industry jargon, keep your descriptions short and to the point.
2. Employ action steps.
Limit each step to only one action. That will keep the process very clear in the mind of the reader. Consider numbering your steps for even greater clarity. The only time multiple actions should be taken in the same step is when two things need to happen at the same time.
3. Include pictures.
Having a verbal description and a matching picture will help to make each action even clearer. The picture can be an actual picture or a realistic illustration. While black and white is more cost effective, consider using color to really clarify objects and actions. Speaking of actions, it's also a good idea to use arrows, highlights, or close-ups to "illustrate" your point.
4. Provide contact information.
While the intent of a job aid is to provide stand-alone assistance in performing a task, there will be times when further assistance is required. To allow for such assistance, include a contact phone number or email address. I've even seen some job aids that list a web site where the user can watch videos that show how to perform the specific task they are working on.
5. Limit it to one sheet.
Each job aid should fit on one sheet of paper. It may be front and back, but it's still one sheet. If there are so many details that the job aid would be multiple sheets, consider multiple job aids. The one exception to this is in the case of a detailed checklist. I know of many industries where some of the basic checklists are three or four pages. In these cases, segmenting specific parts of the checklist to specific pages is a solid technique.
When creating a job aid, remember to focus on who will use it. As a result, your participants will enjoy training packaged with "useful job aids included".
What are your tips for creating user-friendly job aids?