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Important information comes first…

Leading up to Christmas, we put together a sand pit for my son (and eventually his baby sister) as one of his gifts. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

I was very happy to see that all of the pieces were numbered so I didn’t have to figure out which piece went where, and the instructions (mostly in pictorial form) seemed simple enough to follow. However, it wasn’t always clear that each piece of wood had an up or down side so I had to undo and re-screw some bits.

Worst of all, though, was the fact that the kits came with screws of two lengths and it was only in step 8 of 9 that there was any mention of this. The text was something like “Please use the long screws! Put it all together loosely then tighten the screws.”

I read it as ‘use the long screws for the previous points’ but, before I used all the wrong screws, realised they meant for the final steps; likewise, it was the top of the sand pit, constructed in steps 8 that needed to be done loosely. It would have been much clearer to start the instructions with ‘use the short screws for the body of the sand pit’ or ‘use the short screws in steps 1 to 7’, or even ‘leave the long screws for step 8’.

No doubt for the person who knew the product well, it was reasonable to mention the long screws only when they were needed, but for someone following instructions it is important to know not to use the log screws to start with.

It’s just like recipes that state ‘add the eggs to the mixture after separating out the yolk’ – how many people don’t read ahead so will put in the whole egg? Much better to write ‘separate the eggs and add the egg whites to the mixture’.

So if you are writing instructions, ensure important and highly useful information is placed early in the instructions to make the entire process easy to follow.

P.S. We did get the sand pit together (it took about 3 hours instead of the anticipated 30 minutes) and my children love it!

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