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Good Documentation and Instructions Matter

This is nothing new. But it still matters and needs to be said.

Writing about hundreds of plugins, extensions and themes over the last decade in the WordPress space has given me exposure to lots of documentation. The good, the bad and the ugly.

There are ways to make your docs shine. The two biggest elements that will help you do that are clarity and simplicity. Don’t make it rocket science, but don’t go the other way either.

The Physical Product – a Story

Since next to nothing is physical in the WooCommerce product ecosystem, you are likely wondering why I’m talking about this. I honestly feel both virtual and physical are on the same level. Sure there are differences, but it really is about what you may assume when writing the instructions.

Instructions or documentation, inside and outside of tech, often lack in clarity. You know the old joke about setting the clock on your VCR. (Why do it when it takes that much time?) Or maybe you don’t because you never owned a VCR player.

To give you a perspective on this, I want to share one of my own experiences with product instructions.

The Easy-to-Assemble Photo Light Boxes

I ordered online a set of three softboxes for lighting for a photo project. when I’m online. Here is what they look like assembled.

softboxes

When I unpacked the box, needless to say, there were numerous lightbulbs but also a collection of pieces to assemble the softboxes. I was astounded by the assembly directions. They consisted of a crude, 4-panel drawing that looked like a 3-year old had made it. Actually, I think a 3-year old could have done a better job.

I struggled unsuccessfully for the next hour. Next I visited the company’s website, where I found the exact same instructions.

Finally, Google sent me to a YouTube video, in which the guy started out by explaining what a pain the the a** these were to put together. Thankfully, with this video and a bit of sweat, I was able to do it.

Needless to say, I would never buy this product again or recommend it.

Remember, no matter the product, physical or virtual, the documentation matters.

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