Saturday, August 01, 2009

Productivity Bit: Make Instructions Clear, Simple and Easy to Read

If they're clear, simple and easy to read, instructions are more likely to be followed - at least according to the Scientific American. Not earth shattering by any means, but it's interesting to see how the principle was proven:

Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz wanted to see if they could motivate a group of 20-year-old college students to exercise regularly. They gave all the students written instructions for a regular exercise routine, but they used a simple yet ingenious method to make the how-to instructions either cognitively palatable or challenging: some received instructions printed in Arial typeface, a plain font designed for easy reading; others got their instructions printed in a Brush font, which basically looks as if it has been written by hand with a Japanese paintbrush—it is unfamiliar and much harder to read.
A corollary may be that we can be encouraged to do more complicated tasks by breaking them down and making them seem easier... something that's definitely applicable to websites (which in turn is something I'm spending a lot of time on lately).

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