Using images to make instructions more helpful

Introduction

Simple instructions don’t always need images to make them more effective. For example recipes often don’t have images, and if they do they may often just have a picture of the finished item. However to make your instructions more effective it often helps to include one or more diagrams or other images.

How can images help?

Instructions are more effective if the number of words used can be kept fairly small. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is very relevant for writing instructions because using an image with labels can remove the need to write long descriptions. For example the labelled picture of a chain saw below would save many words in instructing how to find the “fuel filler cap” and fill the saw with fuel.

Including the picture and referring to it from the instructions saves writing a detailed description of the “fuel filler cap”, where to find it on the saw, and how to distinguish it from the “oil filler cap”.

It is possible to make instructions even more visual especially if you are writing a “how to” that involves a computer application. This can be done with numbered steps on screenshots as in this one for positioning and inserting an image in your blog.

Visuals are particularly helpful for anything that requires the user to:

  • locate something on a piece of equipment or a toolbar – particularly one unfamiliar to them
  • move something in a particular way
  • see that changes that should result from their actions at each stage in a series of steps

The “techie” bit of making and adding visuals

My own preference for adding visuals to instructions is to use PhotoFiltre and Powerpoint as described in the Slideshare below. I create and save my labelled/annotated images, these can then be inserted directly into: blogposts, presentations or documents with the mimimum of effort.

 

I use this process because I find it:

  • simple and quick to do;
  • easy to edit later if needed
  • provides me with portable visuals that I can use in other applications because they are saved as images

Audio-visual instructions

Audio-visual instructions are becoming more and more common using screencasts and/or video. However these have a major disadvantage in that it is difficult to refer back to one point somewhere in the middle of the instructions without having to replay the entire sequence to find the bit you want! Using audio-visuals is therefore best kept to VERY short activities such as this screencast on attaching files to emails.

Conclusion

There are many different ways of preparing visuals for inclusion in instructions. The one described above is the one I use because it works for me. Please comment on whether you think it will work for you – why or why not?

 

A new dimension for your posts

Introduction

Finding new ways to make your posts more interesting is always fun and can also help demonstrate employability skills such as those in technology! Here you will find out how to sign up for “Slideshare” and “Prezi” two different ways of adding presentations to your blog. We will also show you how to “embed” these types of presentation in your blog.

Slideshare

“Slideshare” is a simple way of uploading and sharing Powerpoint presentations. So if you already know and use Powerpoint you may want to use this to share your employability skills presentation.

This short screencast gives the steps for signing up to Slideshare. Once you have signed up you are directly in an upload screen. However you will get an email with a link for you to click to confirm your membership. Remember to click this or your account will disappear!

The embedded Slideshare below will show you how to upload and embed a Slideshare

 

Prezi

Prezi is a tool for producing and sharing presentations completely online. The main features are that unlike Powerpoint it is not linear and that it uses a zooming technique to move between items.

Here is a screencast on signing up for Prezi

The short embedded Prezi below will show you how to embed a Prezi. For learning how to use Prezi checkout the help in your Prezi account

Vokis

For making and embedding Vokis see “Lina’s Blog”

Conclusion

We hope you have fun embedding Slideshares or Prezis and Vokis in your blogs. They are a great way of adding an extra dimension.

 

Writing a post – the “techie” bit

Introduction

The “techie” part of writing a blog post is very like word processing. Just like MSWord or other word processing programs there are a series of buttons at the top of your page for you to use in making your text look how you want it to look. If you already use MSWord then some of these will be easy for you.

Starting a post

Log in to your Dashboard.

This will open a window with a title space and a box for you to type into. This is your new post – see below for how to make sure that the settings are right for you to type.

You can write your blog post directly in the page and change the font and other settings to suit you in the same way as when you are using a word processing program like MSWord.

What the buttons mean

The buttons on the toolbar will allow you to make your posts “user friendly”, by formatting your text with headings, colours etc and adding links, pictures and other media. Many of the buttons will be easy for you if you already use word processing. If you are not sure “hover” (mover your mouse pointer over)  over a button to find out what it does.

There are some buttons that are used to do particular things that are related to blogging. You will learn how to use these buttons as you start writing your own blog posts.

Saving, previewing, publishing and further editing

Once you start to write your post it is important that you save it often just as you would with a word processed document. You can also check out how it will look when published by previewing the post – this will open a new tab/window with your post as it will look on the blog.

Saving, previewing and publishing are done using the “Publish” panel in the right hand sidebar of the dashboard.

Further editing of a draft or  published post is done using the Posts” menu in the left hand sidebar.

Once you have finished editing then you can preview the post again, or with an already published post use the “Update” button – this replaces the “Publish” button once a post is published.

Conclusion

There are a few other items you will come across as you learn more about blog posts – but that really covers the essential “techie bit”. Writing well and making your posts look and read well is the next step!

As usual we ask you to add a comment to this post. Look at the layout (how the text and images are placed on the page, the colours and the sizes). Does this work for you? What do you like about the layout and why? What do you dislike about the layout and why?