Chances are that a product is probably not very well designed if someone needs a detailed explanation of how it works. Inevitably, however, the need will arise to give at least some basic instruction on how to use a product—whether it is a toy, tool, mobile app, or SaaS solution. But reading the instructions is roughly the last thing anybody wants to do after purchasing something they are excited about. It feels like buying a new car with tires that need to be inflated before you can drive it. It creates a mandatory barrier to entry, which immediately diminishes your product’s appeal. That’s why it is incredibly valuable to have the initial instruction experience be not only simple, but also as inviting as the product itself. You need to consider your customers’ interaction at this stage as thoughtfully as their experience of actually using the product. Visualization can help immensely in this regard, since it enables you to keep instructional content short and stimulating, ensuring that product instructions feel more like finding a $20 bill in the glove box than filling a flat tire.

Using visual cues in place of wordy descriptions will help keep the content direct and concise—which your customers will love. But where do you start? One way to approach the form visual instructions will take is to look at the product or interface itself. It is logical and intuitive to visually represent a product’s anatomy in its instructions; providing a supporting diagram will ...

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