IKEA “How to Build” videos: a review

Although IKEA has been publishing instructional videos on how to build their products since 2012, we’ve only just come across them. The videos feature real people assembling the furniture, plus some tips on how to carry out certain tasks.


IKEA USA has eight “How to build videos”, which you can access from the IKEA USA website or IKEA’s YouTube channel:

The videos are mostly visual, and there isn’t any narration. They are between 3 minutes and 12 minutes in duration. As with many videos, it doesn’t really get started until after the first 15 seconds.

Overall, they are very good:

  • The plain background helps you focus on the furniture.
  • The close-up instructional speech bubbles are informative.
  • The animated arrows do a very good job at  highlighting the location of holes.
  • There are zoom-in shots of specific actions.

While the paper instructions tend to stick to a single viewpoint, the video shows the assembly from different angles.

The last video was made in 2015. Why did IKEA stop making them? We don’t know if they have covered all the of the products that would benefit from video instructions, or they ran out of time/money/enthusiasm.

IKEA Italia

IKEA Italia has a similar YouTube channel. This contains translated versions of the IKEA USA assembly instruction videos, plus some assembly instructions from 2016 that have a British narrator.

These videos are much more driven by narrated instructions, and are shorter in length. I suspect this style was cheaper to produce. These videos also work well, as long as you speak English.

Fan videos

There are unofficial IKEA instructional videos on YouTube as well, some of which take a less conventional approach:

Writing documentation in an Industry 4.0 world

Industry 4.0 must be one of the “words of 2016′. We’re seeing a number of discussions on how this will impact on instructional design and User Assistance.

Ray Gallon has blogged on the question, what role should you have in machine-machine information?, exploring the differences between automatic, programmed dialogues, and non-programmed ones. Sarah O’Keefe has also blogged on the German initiative called iiRDS, the Intelligent Information Request and Delivery Standard.

It’s probably too early to form any firm conclusions on the impact Industry 4.0 will make, but it seems like some of the other trends we’ve highlighted this year are following a similar direction – documentation chatbots (docsbots), content as an API and treating documentation as code. There are similarities with iiRDS and APIs in looking at methods for content interchange, although it’s fair to ask, does the technical communication community need yet another standard?

Standards are like toothbrushes - we all know they're a good idea but we don't want to use somebody else's

Alternatives to Word and PDF for policies and procedures documents

In addition to writing user documentation for software and IT hardware, Cherryleaf also writes policies and procedures. In this post, we look at approaches to writing these types of documents.

A lot of policies and procedures documents are written in Microsoft Word and published as PDFs. Word is an application that everyone knows and has on their machine, and PDF is a format that everyone can view. There are, unfortunately, some downsides to this approach. People tend to print out these formats, as it’s easier to read the document that way than online; this means you have to ensure people print out the latest version, whenever the content is updated. From a writer’s perspective, it can be hard to reuse content across different documents, in the same developers reuse bits of code. Instead, the reader has to jump from one section to the next.

Designing content for reading online can help ensure readers are using the latest version, but there still needs to be the capability to provide a printed copy.  You also need something that can be used by non-professional writers to create content.

So what are the alternatives to Word?

Here are a couple of ideas:

1. A wiki-based or wiki-like approach

You can separate the formatting from the content, and generate paper, Word and online versions. You can also have some embedded content (such as warnings) in pages. They provide easy to use authoring environments. The downside can be that it’s hard to make changes across the site – you have to change pages individually.

2. Markdown or AsciiDoc

You can separate the formatting from the content, and generate paper, Word and online versions. You can also have embedded content (such as warnings) in pages. They provide easy to use authoring environments, but they do not often provide a WYSIWYG view to the writer.

Content can be stored as text files, in a repository, so it’s easy for anyone to submit a suggested change. There are now applications that can provide content management, but otherwise you may be creating a bespoke solution for your situation.

See also: Cutting and pasting content into Word documents – Is there a better way?


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Can a Technical Author be a master of more than one trade?

Technical Authors are normally seen as masters of writing user documentation, but their skills are not often applied to other areas of the business. For example, it’s usually the case our clients for software documentation are different from our procedures writing clients.

However, we’re currently working for a client where we began by editing a white paper, and this has led us on to other projects across departments. Work has included developing customer journey maps, a terminology database, as well as the online Help. The role is morphing into that of a content editor role: checking for consistency, spotting errors in marketing copy, rewriting copy, and so on.

So what is different? What has led to this wider scope? It may be due to us being recommended to them by word of mouth, and they had greater confidence in our abilities. It may be because they are a start up. It could be because many of the staff are not native English speakers.

We suspect it’s because the first project was the white paper. They had something that was very useful to them, for promoting the company. They also included us in their in-house chat system, which meant we could see other areas where they had issues with content. This led to us intervening more than usual, making suggestions in a proactive way. The growth of chat systems, such as Slack and Socialcast, within companies could open up other opportunities for other Technical Authors, as long as they take the initiative.

Helping organisations plan for unexpected events

It’s a while since we covered polices and procedures writing, so just a quick post to say Cherryleaf helps companies document their procedures for dealing with, and recovering from, unexpected disasters. It also can include planning for contingencies, including events that might seem highly unlikely.