Why Write a Tutorial?
Creating value-packed content is key in attracting and retaining readership. One of the best ways to create such value-packed content is to write an informative tutorial or guide on a subject that is sorely lacking one. Writing such a tutorial can be a great way to develop your reputation, increase web traffic to your site, build incoming links to your site, and can also make you an authority on the given topic.
Tutorials are a great source of traffic that is maintained over time. Regular blog posts bring in the majority of their visitors during the first couple days of their existence. Afterwards they might as well be deleted from your blog because they will most likely rot in the archives, never to be read again. Tutorials on the other hand, provide consistent traffic that will bring in more traffic over its life time than many of your other posts. It is not a stretch to say that a good tutorial can bring in as much traffic (or more) compared to 20 well written posts.
Take for example, Caroline MiddleBrook’s Twitter Guide or this Flickr Guide. Both are great examples of a well written tutorial that have greatly enhanced the popularity of the author by providing tremendous value to its readers.
Piecing together the Tutorial
1. Choose a good topic. You should start with topics wherein you have a good amount of knowledge. But if there are already a bunch of tutorials on those topic, it could be difficult to attract any traffic. Thus, its a good idea to do a quick search on Google to gauge the competition. Another good idea is to consider writing tutorials on topics that don’t have any tutorials written on them yet.
Obviously, it helps if there is a need or demand for said tutorial. Usually, if you are the first person to write a comprehensive tutorial on a particular topic, there’s a good chance that your tutorial will attract all the traffic and establish a firm spot atop the search engines . . . that is, until someone writes a superior tutorial on the same topic. The next 10 tips will help prevent this from happening.
2. Clearly state the objective of your tutorial. This should be done in the title description and then once again in more detail at the very beginning of the tutorial. This gives readers an idea of what to expect and helps them determine if they want to continue reading.
3. Be clear and concise. This tip simply cannot be understated. You want to write the tutorial in such a manner that a 3rd grader can understand and follow. Tutorials require a different style of writing than you are probably used too because your main objective is to teach something to the user. It is imperative that your tutorial is clear and concise so that the reader does not get confused or frustrated. Remember, a tutorial is supposed to help a person learn, so you want to make it as easy as possible for them.
4. Use images to supplement the text. A picture can be worth a thousand words. Most of the time, you will need pictures to explain how to do things. Using screen shots and modifying images to describe what you are saying can greatly aid in getting your point across to the reader. Well placed pictures can make or break a good tutorial.
5. Use examples. Find simple examples that will best illustrate your point. Examples are critical to a tutorial because applying information can really help the reader understand and grasp the material better. Talking about doing something, and actually doing it are two completely different things. If possible, multiple examples should be used as it can be quite useful to the reader. If relevant, include source files of examples that you conduct.
6. Use an organized structure. Writing tutorials in list format make them more visually appealing and increase their readability. Some tutorials can get quite large, so developing an organized structure can help your user navigate around the different sections. I use a Table of Contents plugin to help me organize my tutorials. In addition, I also use multiple pages to break up my tutorial into more manageable pieces. Some users prefer that all the content is on one page, so it might be a good idea to offer both formats.
7. Break down the tutorial into simple steps. It’s better to have two simple steps, than one step that is longer and more complicated. Remember, we’re trying to make it easier on the reader, not harder.
8. Leave nothing to ambiguity. This point reinforces #3, but deserves it’s own mention. Explaining more is better than explaining less. More information is better than less information. Once again, it all comes down to making it easy for the reader. Try not to make any assumptions about what the reader does or does not know.
9. Proofread and run through your tutorial. It is also a good idea to have some other people do the same. Odds are good that they will find stuff you forgot to mention. In addition, they can provide feedback on parts where you failed to explain certain things clearly or parts where more information could have been offered.
10. Include a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section. This is a good way to answer questions before they are even asked and acts as a good supplement to the tutorial. As you get more feedback from readers, you can continually update the the FAQ section so that new readers do not ask the same questions.
11. Update and provide support. No matter how comprehensive your tutorial is, it is practically guaranteed that you will forget to address a particular issue or that people will have further questions. You should treat your tutorial as a living document and edit it when new information comes into play. You should also be ready to answer any questions in a timely manner. By showing that you are active and willing to help, you will build credibility by the sheer number of comments and responses. If the comment section gets too crowded, you may even have to consider using a forum.
If you follow these eleven tips, you should have no problem creating a high quality tutorial. Here are some links to three tutorial sites that are exemplary. You can use these as a blueprint in writing your own tutorials. Good luck!
- PSDTuts – Spoonfed Photoshop Tutorials
- Lorelle on WordPress