We all know a good instructable when we see one, right? We get hooked by a title, image, or both. We take a second look, skim the first sentence or two, feel ourselves being pulled in, thinking, I could do that! Before we know it, we've read to the very end. This happens when an instructable answers two burning questions:
How? (How can I do what the author did?) and,
Why? (Why did the author do that?)
Believe it or not, there's something of a formula for writing a great instructable, and I'm about to break it down for you.
Step 1: Choose a Title That Explains Your Project Well
Your title is your first and biggest opportunity to make an impression and get potential readers to read further. If your title doesn't plainly state what your project is about, potential readers aren't likely to take a second look. Here's why:
If I had named this instructable "An Editor's Secrets Revealed," would you be reading it? That title may fit, but it's vague. It doesn't tell you whether the information in the instructable will be useful to you. A better title, and the one I went with, is: "How to Write a Feature-Worthy Instructable." This title helps you, my potential reader, make a good guess about whether reading on is likely to provide you with the information you want.
One more point to add here: Just because a title is straightforward doesn't mean it has to be boring. It's often wise to include descriptive words that help explain why your project is special or unique, especially if other people have already posted projects on the same topic. Consider "How to Boil an Egg Perfectly Every Time" vs. "How to Boil an Egg." Which one would you click to read?
Step 2: Write an Introduction That Explains the Why
You don't have to be a great writer to write a good intro. But you should be able to communicate something interesting about the story behind your project. What's special and unique about it? Why did you make it? Why are you sharing it?
Maybe you're sharing the formula for perfect boiled eggs because you eat one a day to stave off a rare disease that runs in your family. Or maybe you worked the breakfast shift at a diner for twenty years, tried every egg boiling technique known to short order chefs, and can assure us that this one is the absolute best.
Whatever the reason, your readers will enjoy your project more if you give them some insight into its backstory. So in your introduction, share the "why."
Step 3: Include Photos That Are Original, Bright, Clear, and in Focus
Let's break this down:
1. Original: Include only photos that belong to you. Don't grab, re-use, or steal images that you didn't create yourself.
2. Bright: If readers have to strain their eyes to make out what's in your images they will quickly move on. Make sure your subjects are well lit when you take your photos.
3. Clear: Images in an instructable should work almost like diagrams, helping readers understand how you made your project.
4. In Focus: Keep the main subject of your image in focus at all times so that it's easy to understand at a glance the step or technique the photo is demonstrating.
For more detail, check out this instructable on taking and editing great photos.
Step 4: Break It Down Into Replicable Steps
The best instructables are replicable. Take the time to break your project down into the steps that will help your readers really understand the whole process, using at least one photo or diagram plus explanatory text for each step. What do readers need to know to be able to copy you?
Make sure your project contains all the information a reader would need to duplicate it. (You can assume your reader has the necessary tools, materials, and basic skills.) If the project is very advanced let your readers know that upfront, and when possible, link to resources that cover the more basic skils needed.
Step 5: Aim for Good Grammar and Spelling
You don't have to be able to speak or write perfectly to create a good instructable, but instructables that are full of spelling and grammatical mistakes are less likely to be featured. That's because they can be hard to understand, and readers don't always have the patience to struggle through, even if the project is great. Aim to avoid distracting your readers with grammar and spelling mistakes.
If you're not sure you can nail that, use a spell and grammar checker or ask a friend to proofread.
Step 6: List Materials and Tools
List the parts, materials, ingredients, and tools used, with links to online sources if possible. Your materials and tools list can be part of your introduction or your first step.
Step 7: Include Patterns and Files
While this isn't necessary to be featured, it's a plus. Readers really appreciate it when you include a PDF pattern, an STL file, or other downloadable resource that will help them make the project themselves. Sharing patterns and files makes your project highly replicable, and you'll get amazing feedback from people who you've empowered to click the "I made it!" button on your instructable.
Step 8: To Sum Up . . .
Here, to help you remember, are the seven tips for creating a feature-worthy instructable:
1. Choose a title that explains your project well
2. Write an introduction that explains "why"
3. Include photos that are original, bright, clear, and in focus
4. Break your project down into replicable steps
5. Aim for good grammar and spelling
6. List materials and tools
7. Include key patterns and files
And one more: have fun!