Instructional web content: the good and the bad

Lewis Wake
Wednesday 9 August 2023

Instructional web content plays a vital role in guiding users to successfully complete tasks. However, not all instructional content is equal.

Some content effortlessly assists users, while other content leaves them frustrated and confused. In this article, we will explore the key factors that distinguish good instructional web content from the bad, analysing their impact on user experience, success, frustration, and task completion.

Structured and task-driven content

Good instructional web content follows a clear and organised structure that aligns with the user’s objectives.

By utilising headings, subheadings, and a logical flow, users can navigate through the instructions with ease.

Task-driven content breaks down complex tasks into sequential steps, ensuring users understand each action required.

This approach leads to higher user success rates and reduced frustration.

Illustration of how content hierarchy aids navigation and comprehension
Content hierarchy aids navigation and comprehension.

The perils of poorly structured content

In contrast, poorly structured instructional web content can harm user experience.

Lack of organisation and clarity often result in confusion and frustration.

Users may struggle to follow disjointed instructions or have difficulty finding relevant information.

Consequently, they may abandon tasks or seek alternative sources, hindering completion rates and diminishing user satisfaction.

A frustrated user looking at a messy set of instructions
A frustrated user looking at a messy set of instructions.

Consolidation of instructions

Another critical aspect of good instructional web content is consolidating all necessary instructions in one place.

By providing comprehensive resources, users are spared the need to conduct extensive research before starting a task.

This convenience enhances user trust and confidence while streamlining the completion process.

On the other hand, failing to consolidate instructions may frustrate users as they have to navigate multiple sources for information.

A user happily accessing a single resource that contains all the information they need
A user will happily use a single resource that contains all the information they need.

Balancing tradeoffs

Creating instructional web content involves finding the right balance between brevity and comprehensiveness.

While concise instructions are desirable, they should not sacrifice clarity and thoroughness.

Content designers must understand the audience’s knowledge level and tailor instructions accordingly.

Striking the right balance is crucial to avoid overwhelming users with excessive information or leaving them with insufficient guidance.

A visual showing different layers of content, representing varying levels of detail for different audience knowledge levels
All pages should be built with simplicity in mind to benefit all audiences.

Considering impact on user experience

When making decisions about instructional web content, it is essential to consider the impact on user experience.

This involves conducting user research, gathering feedback, and analysing metrics.

By understanding user needs and pain points, content designers can make informed choices that enhance the user journey and lead to higher task completion rates.

A group of content designers collaborating to create effective instructional content


Crafting effective instructional web content requires careful consideration of factors that impact user experience, success, frustration, and task completion.

A clear and task-driven approach empowers users, resulting in higher success rates and satisfaction levels.

Consolidating instructions minimises user effort and builds trust.

By striking the right balance and considering the impact on users, content designers can create instructional web content that guides users effectively and leaves a positive impression.

Content designers hold the key to unlocking seamless user experiences through instructional web content.

Illustrations from DrawKit

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