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Expand on measuring options

So you have a product and customers have to mix it in some way, and you want to make it easy for them to get good results. What are your options for doing this?

This is to follow on from my post on tile adhesive instructions being less than ideal, and I thought I’d explain some ways to make mixing instructions easier for your customers.

Why expand on instructions?

Pipette dripping into a test tube

You may not need scientific precision measurements, but clarity is critical in making the right mixture.

Yes, you could copy the tile adhesive company and give very basic instructions. And that would be fine for some of your customers.

Or you could aim to help the majority of your customers with more detailed, clear instructions as they will be happier and get better overall results. And happier customers will come back and/or recommend you to others.

Better instructions could also mean fewer calls to you asking for help, too.

How to give useful information

Depending on your product and audience, you may be able to use one or more of the following options.

  1. give specific measurements
  2. give a simple ratio for mixing
  3. give a range of measurements
  4. give instructions that allow for varied quantities

Give specific measurements

Obviously, the simplest approach is giving exact measurements like a cake mix packet – ‘add one egg and 1 cup of milk to the cake mix’.

Of course, it is best to avoid ambiguity and use clear measurements. For example, 250ml is safer than 1 cup as non-Australian cups are not 250ml.

Give a simple ratio for mixing

When you have a packet and people are likely to use part of it each time, a ratio can be a handy measurement tool.

For instance, ‘add two teaspoons of fertiliser per 3 litres of water’ can be used by someone wanting 3 or 30 litres of fertiliser. And ‘mix a 1:1 volume of powder and water’ is easy to convert to any quantity of the mixture.

Give a range of measurements

When you provide a large quantity of the product and people are probably going to use it in batches, it is important to give them realistic numbers to work with. For example, no one is going to use a whole box of washing powder in one go so why bother saying ‘tip the box into a 7,000 litre washing machine’?

Even if you do provide a ratio of components, some examples or a range can be very useful for a consumer.

A range could be in a table form:

powder water area covered
1 cup 2 litres 1 m2
2 cups 4 litres 2 m2
5 cups 10 litres 5 m2

Or as text ‘To cover a large area, mix the entire bag with 6 litres of water; to cover 1m2 area, mix 1 cup with 2 litres of water.’

Give instructions that allow for varied quantities

Sometimes an exact measurement isn’t feasible, but this can be hard for a user to understand.

Instead of saying something like ‘use one to two cups of water’, it is clearer to write:

– add one cup of water and mix
– slowing add more water (up to 1 cup) until the mixture runs as slowly as honey

or maybe you can add notes like ‘Add 1 cup of water and mix. Note that in high humidity or days over 35°C, an additional 1/2 cup of water may be needed.’

Ants or -ance?

Assistants: two or more people who are helping
His assistants were busy preparing the report.

Assistance: the help being provided
I really appreciated your assistance yesterday.

The use of -ants and -ance is often confused because they sound exactly the same despite the very different spelling. The easiest way to remember which is which is to think of ants (yes, the insects!) as doers and use that ending when you are writing about people doing something.

Making links useful…

I have been to two websites today that reminded me of the post I wrote back in February about linking to relevant information.

The first one (and as tempted as I am to link to the page, I will only say it was a government information site!) had a whole page about a particular form – what it should be used for and when to use it. At the bottom of the page, it read:

For a copy of this form, visit our website at www.url or call us on 12345679.

Given I was already on their website, a link to their homepage really didn’t help me! It took me another five minutes to actually find the form on their site.

The second site had a similar message but the link itself at least went to their form. This obviously helped me find the form, but I nearly didn’t click on the link as I expected it to go the to homepage.

And that is a reminder to make the text of any links meaningful, too. How hard would it have been to write something like “For a copy of this form, click here”?

So from personal experience today, I request you always think of what will help your readers when you add links to anything you write.

Use your words wisely!