|Instructional guidance created as a learning tool that takes the user through a prescribed sequence of steps in order to learn a process or a product. The step by step process ensures that the user is following along and comprehending the material. Some software tutorials provide testing features to ensure comprehension of the material, while others may be simple walkthroughs of a software program. Tutorials can be used for educational, training or business purposes and are written for basic, intermediate, and advanced users. |
|Creating a tutorial|
Tutorials should be designed to make a difficult task easier by offering simple instructions for processes and steps that are potentially complicated. A tutorial should allow users to save time and energy that they would otherwise have to spend researching. Their usefulness can be measured using a time vs. knowledge ratio: the time investment should not exceed the amount of knowledge offered; for instance, a 30-minute tutorial on how to carry out a very simple task is not a good idea, there are probably ways to make it shorter and more to the point. 
Characteristics of a good tutorial
Four main aspects should be carefully considered in order to create a good tutorial: these are language, organization, presentation and content.
Unless your tutorial is intended for advanced users, it is better to avoid any technical terms and specialized jargon and to opt for the ‘layman’s language’: it must be remembered that if users are relying on your tutorial it means that they are no experts on the subject matter. The rule of thumb is always: know your audience.
The planning phase is important: create an outline or list of what your tutorial will contain and what its structure will be; this will help keep it clear and organized.
Go through the process using the eyes of a first-timer: take notes of each step of the process, as this will help you not to skip any passages. Think of the questions and troubles you had when you went through the process for the first time. Include also the minor steps that might seem obvious to you as an expert: they are not for someone who is a beginner.
Make sure you use proper formatting. Test all the downloads included, if any, and make sure all links are live.
Your presentation should be accessible to the majority of users: take into account that not everyone can download large files or visualize Quicktime or Flash. A good solution could be posting different versions of your tutorial in different formats and let people choose what option suits them.
Start by giving users an introduction: this should include a brief explanation of the tutorial’s goals, a list of what is needed to complete the project, and an overview of the areas you will cover. Remember to specify what the skill level of the tutorial is (e.g. beginners, intermediate or advanced).
Take into account the time factor: aim for brevity but include all the important details.
Remember that cohesion is an essential part: if the tutorial is part of a series, plan the order carefully so that each tutorial builds on what was explained in the previous ones.