Motivating elements in instructional documents

Traditionally, the effectiveness of instructions is evaluated by measuring the performance of their users (the number of correctly completed trasks) and their efficiency (the time needed for reading instructions and performing tasks). However, this research projects extends the focus to the degree to which users are motivated by instruction. To what extend can instructions influence the user's willingness to read them and to do efforts to complete their work? Additionally, the appreciation of instructions by their readers is a point of focus in this project. The main part of the project is a PhD study by Nicole Loorbach, supervised by oyce Karreman and myself.

In Nlcole's Loorbach's  MSc research project, procedural instructions for a telephone were extended with a number of motivating elements. An experiment showed that these elements did not affect the performance of the users, but positively affected their appreciation of the document.

The curruent PhD reserach of Nicole Loorbach explores these results further. In a first experiment, four versions of user instructions were investigated: a strictly technical version and three experimental versions. The first (A) was designed to attract and maintain the attention of the reader as much as possible. The second (R) was designed to stress the relevance of the information for the reader. The third one (C) was especially designed to increase the reader's confidence. The experiment showed that the participants (elder people) performed significantly better with the C and R versions of the instructions, with a tendency to perform better with the A version.

Publications in English about this topic

  • Steehouder, M., & Loorbach, N. (2004). How to Make User Instructions Motivational? Paper presented at the International Professional Communication Conference 2004, Minneapolis.
  • Loorbach, N., Steehouder, M., & Taal, E. (2006). The effects of motivational elements in user instructions. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 20(3), 177-199.
  • Loorbach, N. R., Karreman, J. & Steehouder, M. (2007). Adding motivational elements to an instruction manual for seniors: effects on usability and motivation. Technical Communication [accepted]