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How Micro-instructions Help You Become a Better Researcher

Read time: 8 mins aprox
MAY 10, 2022

We received a lot of great feedback on our micro-instructions blog post. A lot of offline comments around the “how”:

 How can micro-instructions help me get more and better feedback?

Well, let’s say I’m a product manager in a company that makes smart audio products. I’m working on a brand new soundbar with lots of new features. I’m getting close to my beta phase and I want to give my testers instructions on what to test and how to test. I don’t have a great platform like Stomio so I opt for simply writing an instructions document - it goes (loosely) something like this:

We received a lot of great feedback on our micro-instructions blog post. A lot of offline comments around the “how”:

 How can micro-instructions help me get more and better feedback?

Well, let’s say I’m a product manager in a company that makes smart audio products. I’m working on a brand new soundbar with lots of new features. I’m getting close to my beta phase and I want to give my testers instructions on what to test and how to test. I don’t have a great platform like Stomio so I opt for simply writing an instructions document - it goes (loosely) something like this:

1- Unbox your product

2- Install your soundbar

3- Connect it to WiFi

4- Launch the app and pair

5- Start streaming music

These are the general steps I want my testers to follow. But now I need to go deeper into each one and start to give them more context. Let’s dig into the first step

1- Unbox your product

  1. Open the shipping package and take the soundbar out
  2. Open the box and take out all items from inside the box
  3. Make sure you have the soundbar and the power cable at the very minimum
  4. Read the instructions manual
  5. If there’s any issue, reach out to us awesomesoundbarbeta@acme.io

Simple enough, but now I need to do it for all of the steps. And I have to think through some of the possibilities my testers may run into. For example, if the tester powers on the product but it is dead, what should they do? I need to write that. If they attempted to pair their phone with the soundbar but their Bluetooth turned off on their phone, I need to put a reminder. There is a special sequence in my app they should go through, let’s screen grab and add to the document.

I spent hours (or days!) working on this document and I’m now sure it covers everything my testers need in order to execute their tests properly, GREAT! Now I have a nested 10-15 page instructions document that I can’t wait for my testers to follow! I get the sign ups, make sure my testers have signed their NDAs (more on that in future posts), I set up my mailer so my team and I get all beta testers communications, and I send each tester a personalized email with a link to my great document! Everything should be clear there…

A couple of days go by and the mailer is silent. Then we start getting a barrage of emails on the mailer from testers asking us questions that we literally wrote in the document!

“Hey my unit seems dead! What should I do?”
“Should I call support for my troubles?”
“Where do I submit my feedback? I’m just going to share my thoughts here”

And the threads go on and on.. all ad-hoc.. all information we can’t process easily.. and the worst part, no one seems to be reading my great document!!! Did I just waste days of my life creating a monster that no one wants?

A couple of weeks go by and now it’s time to collect feedback. I created a great survey with 50 questions. Grids, pictures, 10-option multiple choice.. etc it’s a thing of beauty. I send it to my testers and wait patiently for all the great feedback to dig into! Another week goes by and I can see people opening the survey and dropping off after the first or second page. There are some finished results but half of them are just folks who clicked through the survey without submitting feedback.

By now you see the challenge: lack of engagement. It’s disappointing, but when you consider the tester’s experience, it’s not very surprising. You sent them a 15 page document. Their first task wasn’t unboxing…it was reading a 15 page document! And the survey? Not much better. Lots of detailed questions about something that they did a few weeks prior and don’t remember everything about.   

All of this is made worse by the fact that our testers have a day job…and it’s not beta testing. Every time they get pulled away from that 15 page document, they have to re-orient themselves to get back into it. 

Now let’s see how a micro-instruction framework can help. 

Instead of a 15 page document to follow and a 50 question survey weeks later, imagine the following list of micro instructions (including instructions to provide feedback):

Task 1: Unbox your soundbar

Now your testers are executing on a very specific task, going through very specific steps to achieve that task, and they’re sharing their feedback right there on the spot. Even if they stop engaging after a couple of tasks, you already captured their invaluable feedback on the tasks they executed.

More importantly, they never saw the 15 page document or 50 question survey and never had to tell themselves they simply didn’t have time to deal with it. They just did one small instruction…followed by another and another until we covered everything and captured all of their feedback. Painlessly. 

That’s how micro-instructions can help you become a better researcher, help your testers provide feedback as they test, and ultimately help you get better engagement from your testers! Want to see how all this can be done quickly and give your testers a fun experience? Check us out!


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Ayham Ereksousi
Co-Founder CEO

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