Why most online tutorials are a waste of time

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Teacher and blackboard

Have you ever created a tutorial and wanted to share it on  social media?

Don’t! Or at least only do so when you’re confident of its quality.

You may have the best intentions and a lot of enthusiasm, but unless your tutorial looks and sounds professional it’s a waste of time.

All too often, when I need to demonstrate a design technique to my students, I find myself wading through poorly designed, impenetrable and dreary audio and video monologues made by someone in their bedroom.

Yet, online tutorials abound. Google a question and someone has probably spent many hours designing a tutorial. These range from screen captured step-by-step tutorials with written instructions to screen captured videos uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo.

Some common problems I’ve found include:

Software upgrades
Just about every tutorial is out-dated within a year, particularly for high end graphic programs like Photoshop. The constant upgrades mean that steps for one version of the program quickly become obsolete or confusing in the next. While the instructions may direct you to click on a tab or fly-out menu, it’s more likely you will pause and rewind the video to find whether you’ve misheard, are completely stupid or going crazy. That is until you realise the particular feature has been removed or placed elsewhere in the menu — but by then you’ve lost interest in the tutorial anyway.

Use of different images
If you don’t have the same source material when following a tutorial your end product will never turn out like the screen version.

Missed steps
You can spend ages following along and everything is going smoothly until suddenly a step is missing. Either the instructor forgot or assumed you knew what to do. Your only option at this point is to abandon the project altogether.

Indecipherable audio
It is excruciating listening to someone who sounds bored, has no tonal variation or simply ‘umms and ahhs’ as they stumble through their homemade tutorial presentation. Even worse is when English is their second language and the accent is so thick you can’t understand a thing they say.

Insufficient product knowledge
A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous. The worst tutorials are those where someone doesn’t know the subject well enough to create a decent outcome. The end result is a shambles and clearly demonstrates a lack of expertise. In which case, if you are unfamiliar with the product, please don’t try and teach it.

Stick with professionally made videos produced by companies with a good reputation. Though some amateur videos can be quite good, you have to wade through an awful lot of trash to find them.

Sue Bell

Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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