Get Over the Overviews

man using laptop with the word overview in the center

There are certain times in life, where an overview is valuable. For example, if you are in the information gathering and research phase of a purchase – you would likely want an overview of the product, description of its features and a brief explanation of why that product might benefit you.

However, when it comes to developing training content that is aimed at educating an audience on how to do something, or how to use something – the title “overview” will likely be a waste of time to create, and a waste of time for your customer to read or watch. And here are 3 reasons why:

It’s time to sweat the small stuff.

The term overview means “a general explanation or description of something.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. When you are ready to learn how to use something, configure something, make something or set something up – you likely aren’t going to search the term “overview”. You want the details. You want the annoying nitty-gritty details and all “gotchas” that might exist. For example, if you want to learn “how to make cake pops” and you found a YouTube video that is an overview which doesn’t include the recipe, step-by-step instructions, or “tips and tricks” on how to keep them from falling off the stick – you would likely be frustrated, give that video a thumbs down and leave a negative comment. The same thing goes when developing end-user training. Overviews become frustrating and don’t provide any real instruction to the learner that needs to understand how to configure, set up, or manage a particular service or feature that is not intuitive.

Now, there may be certain topics or concepts that justify “overview-like” content – but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Stop selling…but don’t over complicate.

Oh, the cross-roads of marketing and product. The marketing brain always wants to make sure and throw in two cents about the benefits of your feature, service, or application. But guess what – there’s no room for that in your support conversations.

The audience for end-user training content has already purchased your product. They don’t need to learn about all the amazing benefits anymore. They want to know how to use it. In fact – they might be extremely frustrated by the time they actually find this instructional content – so please don’t p*ss them off further. For example, if you just spent $800 on your baby’s new crib and you went to put the thing together and the first two pages were a sales pitch as to why this crib is so amazing – you would be annoyed. You already bought the overpriced crib – all you want to do is put the thing together before your older toddler wakes up from his nap. Get on with it!

The Basics, Getting Started, Day 1 Experience…get creative.

Now, getting back to technology-related training examples. There is certainly a need for content that briefly describes a concept, term, feature, or service. Typically when this applies – the audience is new to the technology and there needs to be a bit of “101”. For example, maybe “The Basics” would better describe the content, or perhaps “Getting Started” or “Day 1 Set up”. Something. Get creative with what you name this content because the term overview will get ignored.

One of the biggest challenges you might face while developing content is differentiating between all the information you know as the expert, and the information learners will need in their real-world situations. It can be easy to forget the actual ‘Help and Support Experience’ when you are writing articles. You can start to “check yourself” by asking these three questions:

Does this content provide the information end-users need in a timely and intuitive manner?
Does it contain extraneous information that might distract from the specific steps or guidelines learners need to solve their issues?
Are there any areas of this content that are confusing or difficult to understand?