Writing a tutorial or a simple how-to post is one of the most efficient ways to share the steps to a process or procedure with a large number of people simultaneously. That’s why how-to style content is a popular format for knowledge base articles and even blogposts. But there’s a process to follow to ensure that you’re conveying information in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner. In this article, we’ll cover:
- Defining Your Objective
- Determining the Right Format
- Conducting Research and Gathering Information
- Outline Your Material
- Adding Explanatory Details
- Structuring Your Article for Easy Scanning
Read on to find out how to create a successful how-to post that educates and engages your readers.
Define Your Objective
The first step in creating a thorough how-to post is to have a clear objective. What does your target reader hope to accomplish by the time they finish reading your content? The objective should be clear both in your subject line and in the introduction to your article. By making the outcome and goals clear, you’ll help readers quickly determine if your article will help them solve their problem.
Determine the Right Format
Good quality how-to content can take a few different forms, depending on whether they’re structured as helpful tips, a specific set of steps required to complete a task or achieve an outcome, or as an informative article that covers the basics of a concept. By evaluating these examples, you can determine the most appropriate style and format for your own how-to article.
How-To Posts in a Step-by-Step Format:
1. Designing a Home Theater – Who doesn’t want to enjoy the latest flicks from the comfort of home? To do it in style, you need to know how to design and build a home theater, and this article explains what you need and how to get it done.
2. Building a Treehouse – Every kid wants a fabulous treehouse to call their own. This post explains how to build a treehouse from start to finish, including links to additional resources that provide more in-depth instructions on every aspect of the design and build process.
3. Brushing Your Teeth – Some of the best how-to content covers topics that many people think they already know, but may not be doing correctly. This particular article explains how to brush your teeth – the right way.
How-To Posts Covering Basics on a Concept:
4. Data Analysis – Data analytics is a hot topic in the business world, but newbies might not understand how it works or what purposes it serves. This article, What is Data Analysis?, covers the essentials without getting into too much complex detail to sufficiently summarize the topic.
5. Gig Economy – Here’s another example of an article that covers the basics around a concept. It’s a great read for those who want to know what the gig economy is and how it works, and it also provides a few best practices.
6. Safety Data Sheets – Another example of a shorter article that covers the essential, need-to-know information, this post, What is a Safety Data Sheet?, adequately explains the basics of safety data sheets, why they’re used, and how they’re formatted to help readers who may be reviewing an SDS for the first time
How-To Posts That Help Readers Make Decisions:
7. Assisted Living – Families with aging loved ones may be researching their senior living options, such as assisted living. But they often wonder how much should assisted living cost, how much care is provided in assisted living, and more. Articles like this provide information readers need to make informed decisions.
8. Supplements – Consumers suffering from a variety of ailments and health conditions often turn to supplements to ease their symptoms. This article explains how supplements can help reduce anxiety and compares 10 top-rated products to help readers choose the best supplements for their needs.
9. Choosing a Doctor – The right healthcare provider can make all the difference. Articles like this one offer helpful advice for consumers who aren’t sure how to choose the right doctor.
How-To Posts Offering Tips for Success:
10. Warehouse Organization – With so many variables and so much context to consider, this article on how to organize a warehouse goes into depth with helpful tips for creating a more efficient warehouse, by optimizing areas and processes such as receiving, picking and stocking, and more.
11. Website Speed – We live in an age of instant gratification, and today’s consumers don’t like to wait for websites to load. In fact, Google doesn’t like slow-loading sites either. Luckily, how-to articles like this one provide valuable tips on how to speed up your website.
12. Car Insurance Discounts – Want to pay less for your car insurance? This article provides tips and strategies on how to earn car insurance discounts, such as bundling coverage, maintaining a good driving record, and more.
In-Depth How-To Posts for Complex Subjects:
13. Family Caregiving – Financial matters are a major concern for aging adults. This guide provides strategies to help caregivers find the financial assistance they need to care for their aging family members, information on how to compare home care costs, and sources of financial assistance that can ease the financial burden.
14. Writing Viral Content – If you’re going to write content, you might as well go viral. Well, it’s not quite that simple, but by following the advice in this thorough guide on how to write epic content will surely increase your odds.
15. Designing Your Dream Home – If you’re undertaking a task as monumental and life-changing as designing your new home, a short how-to article just isn’t going to cut it. If you want to know how to design your dream home without making costly mistakes you’ll regret for decades to come, you’ll want to consult an in-depth resource.
As you can see, great how-to content comes in a variety of styles. Think about your readers, how much detail they require, and the nature of the topic to decide on the right format, length, and complexity. Then, you’re ready to begin conducting research and putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Conduct Research and Gather Information
Gather all the essential information your readers will need. Is there background information necessary for understanding the various steps in the process you’re describing or for making the bestuse of the tips and strategies you’re conveying? Even if your audience is likely to have the necessary background knowledge, it’s a good idea to reiterate and briefly summarize the need-to-know information.
Outline Your Material
Outlining is one of those techniques most people learned in school but never really thought was necessary. If you’re writing how-to style content, outlining is your best friend. Not only does it help you conceptualize your material in a logical manner but it also helps you organize your content in an easily digestible way for your readers.
Add Explanatory Details
After you’ve outlined the primary topics, steps, or stages, go back and add detail. Use examples where you can and include any additional tips that can help readers master each step or understand the importance of following important tips. If you’re writing about a complex topic, visualizations can be helpful as well.
Structure Your Article for Easy Scanning
Here’s the harsh truth: many people won’t read your article from start to finish. Maybe you’re writing a tutorial on how to change a tire, and your reader is stuck on how to use a jack. Instead of reading through details they already know, they’ll likely jump to a subheading that relates to using a jack. So, make your article easy to scan by including a brief table of contents at the beginning (particularly if the content is lengthy) to let readers quickly determine what the article covers. Break down the content into logical subsections with clear headings.
Too many how-to articles end rather abruptly. Don’t leave your readers hanging. Instead:
1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
2. Tell them.
3. Tell them what you told them.
By summarizing your article at the end, you’ll leave your readers feeling satisfied and give them closure (yes, even readers need closure!).
While there’s no single best way to write great how-to content, following this recipe will guide you in creating content that engages your audience educates your readers. Your content might not go viral (but hey, it might), but you’ll at least help someone solve a problem – even if it’s a problem they didn’t know they had.