How to write a tutorial that helps others and helps you

Did you know that you’re an expert at something?

You know something about a topic or a process that many people don’t, and you’re qualified to teach that knowledge to the rest of us. Designing a user-friendly tutorial or instructional resource about a process or method related to your field is a great way to help others, build community and market content.

Instructional information is valuable for many reasons:

It demonstrates expertise and an altruistic willingness to share knowledge

  • It’s often “evergreen” content that remains relevant and useful over time
  • Because it’s problem-solving information, it builds trust and encourages people to return for more
  • If you pick a topic that contains popular search terms, you could hit an SEO goldmine

How to determine your expertise

Social Marketing Manager Nate Kartchner blogs about how he turned to for free instructional help in coding his own site. “WPDesigner has an impressively extensive knowledge of WordPress themes. He took that knowledge, broke it down into chunks that are easily digestible for noobs, and shared it, free of charge.” It follows that many people can offer the same kind of value if they think about what their areas of expertise or authority. Kartchner spells out how to determine those areas in five easy steps.

Tips on how to construct an effective tutorial

1. This tip comes from Little Box of Ideas, a blog about design. “Before writing a tutorial, pick a topic you know about like the back of your hand, then research, ” writes Sneh Roy. “I would suggest running a search via Google using a combination of keywords to see whether that topic has been covered before.” The idea here is to try to identify what information is lacking, and find an angle or search terms that fill the gaps.

2. Brainstorm how best to position and title the tutorial so that it addresses people’s core wants in that subject area. Skelliewag talks about this in her own tutorial How to write a Viral-ready article in two hours flat. “Explicitly addressing an entire core want in your article is a very powerful viral strategy. Here’s an example: I read an article about ‘How to Tackle in Soccer’ because I want to learn how to be a great soccer defender. Don’t you think I would be even more excited to read ‘How to be a Great Soccer Defender’?”

3. A straightforward lead-in to the tutorial is crucial, writes David Barnes in How to Give Your Tutorial a Killer Introduction. It should be jargon-free, and tell readers what they’re going to learn, how it will help them and what the steps will be to get there.

4. To figure out how to break down the process you want to describe, look to other basic tutorials as models. There are popular sites like eHow and wikiHow that offer step-by-step instructions in many subject areas.

5. Use visuals, particularly for explaining technical, graphic or hands-on processes. Once you’ve broken the process or topic down into steps, figure out a way to illustrate each one. Depending on the subject, you may want to use screenshots or photographs. This post, How to Make Your Post Attractive Using Images, shows how to find stock photography online and how to capture screenshots and insert them in tutorials. Here’s an example of a tutorial that makes great use of images to explain how to use Photoshop to give a retro look to photographs.

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