Companies have long employed instruction sets to accompany products with the goal of providing consumers with knowledge as to how the product functions. As at late, effective instruction sets have been more easily achievable due to rapid technological advancements. The implementation of videos and visuals, especially, have paved the way for more goal-reaching instruction sets. Although, there are a decent number of instruction sets being produced that fail to effectively educate the consumer audience. Various scholars, including Stuart A. Selber, James Paradis, Hans and Jan der Meij, Jo Mackiewicz, and Elizabeth Tebeaux, have conducted research pertaining to instruction sets and their exigency and application. Their findings offer insight as to how an instruction set may be produced, or may have been produced, effectively or ineffectively
In “A Rhetoric of Electronic Instruction Sets”, Stuart A. Selber discovered there is a particular style which can be used to produce instruction sets that are either effective or ineffective. He demonstrates that three models can be utilized in order to create an effective instruction set. The models include self-contained, embedded, and open instruction sets. Self-contained instructional sets are the most traditional form and follow a simple step by step format. They are characterized by fixed content and a syntactic web supporting structure. Some examples of self-contained instructional sets are PDF files and static websites. The second model, embedded instructional sets, evaluates data received from users to determine what worked and what did not when teaching consumers to use certain products. This is done in attempts to be able to adapt instruction sets for consumers based on the data received. Embedded instructional sets can be characterized by utilizing user-generated metadata and a semantic web supporting structure. A couple of examples are screencasts and user forums. The final model is that of the open instructional set. These instructional sets feature mutable content and an organic web supporting structure. A prime example of this model is Wikipedia. Wikipedia enables their users to make changes to virtually all forums as long as the information needs correcting or is out of date.
Further analysis of instruction sets was carried on by James Paradis in his publication “Text in Action.” Paradis delved into the particular genre of operator manuals as instruction sets. Operation manuals focus largely on providing information concerning the competent and safe use of products. Paradis states, “The operator’s manual is a conceptual framework that infuses human purpose into mechanical devices or their equivalents, thus aligning the neutral products of technology with the value-laden ends of society.” Here, Paradis exemplifies that operator manuals serve to connect the consumer to the product they are utilizing. This is done with an overarching goal of familiarizing the consumer with the product as it relates to and functions throughout society. Additionally, the complexity and detail of operator manuals must adapt to the ever-advancing technological world. This is done in attempts to uphold fulfillment associated with the dynamic customer-product relationship.
“Eight Guidelines for the Design of Instructional Videos for Software Training”, Hans and Jan der Meij’s scholarly article, regarding video instructions and their appropriate use. They outlined eight strategies for employing instructional videos in an effective and successful manner. Their research demonstrated that instructional videos were found to be more effective, when compared to that of written instructions, with our generation. Increased technology and a growing body of knowledge have generated an exigency for a type of instruction set which caters to our impatient and hyperactive generation. The research proved that videos were profoundly successful in teaching consumers about user proficiency of electronic software. This was especially the case when compared to that of written instructions covering the same topic. This research did, however, focus primarily on software rather than common products and materials. Although, as written forms of instructional sets become more and more outdated, video instructions will undoubtingly become the best method of teaching consumers regarding virtually anything.
Jo Mackiewicz published his findings concerning online reviews in an article titled “Assertions of Expertise in Online Product Reviews.” Mackiewicz shows how online reviews are a reliable method of assessing the effectiveness of an instruction set or product. His research aims to outline the assertions any given product user can make in order to make their online review a credible source of information. Expert terminology and proof of experience with certain products are just a couple of the assertions he provides that demonstrate credibility throughout a consumer’s review. Businesses are able to identify these signals and apply consumer suggestions to specific products depending on the quality of feedback given. However, due to the high volume of consumer reviews it is often difficult to decipher reliable information from that of information which is disguised as credible. Consequently, a portion of user reviews may not be reliable even though they are deemed credible.
Lastly, Elizabeth Tebeaux studied what happens when you fail to read the instruction set in “Safety Warnings in Tractor Operation Manuals, 1920-1980: Manuals and Warnings Don’t Always Work.” She observed that over a period of nearly a century tractor operators were consistently enduring injuries, and in some cases death, simply because they disobeyed basic safety warnings outlined in the operator’s manuals for such tractors. One key factor that has led to this negligence of safety is the lack of stress placed upon farmers to completely read the manuals for their equipment. For example, The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) does not require farmers of family-owned farms to comply with their regulations. This presents a problem because the vast majority, about every 9 in 10 American farmers, operate on family-owned farms. In attempts to prevent tractor-related incidents from occurring, various safety devices were added to the machines. However, tractor operators opposed the devices because they slowed the machinery down even more. This situation has created the need for an operator’s manual that is engaging for tractor drivers. More accessible and readable manuals will translate to fewer and less frequent tractor-related incidents.
Each study demonstrates that instruction sets serve an important purpose in the world. More intuitive and engaging instruction sets have been produced due to vast technological advancements. I would personally infer that interactive instruction sets will become more and more popular with years to come. The reason being that interactive instruction sets will enable the user to gain some experience right off the bat. Consumers will gain an intermediate amount of experience with certain products before even using them for the first time.
Selber, Stuart A. “A Rhetoric of Electronic Instruction Sets.” Technical Communication Quarterly 19.2 (2010): 95-117. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.
Paradis, James. “The Operator’s Manual, In Context and in Court.” Text and Action. (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.
Van Der Meij, Hans, and Jan Van Der Meij. “Eight Guidelines for the Design of Instructional Videos for Software Training.” Applied Theory (2013): n. pag. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.
Mackiewicz, J. “Assertions of Expertise in Online Product Reviews.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 24.1 (2009): 3-28. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.
Tebeaux, Elizabeth. “Safety Warnings in Tractor Operation Manuals, 1920-1980: Manuals and Warnings Don’t Always Work.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 40.1 (2010): 3-28. Web. 1 Oct. 2016.