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3 Job Aid Design Lessons from a Beach in Hawaii

An effective job aid might be able to replace the need for actually training someone. At the very least, it can be distributed as part of a training to help people remember a rule or how to do something new. Drawing inspiration from "job aids" we see every day when we walk around can make our job designing effective job aids easier.
airline flying through a sky with palm trees

I’ve been on vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii for the past week, and as I’ve been known to do, I’m constantly on the lookout for instructional design and blog inspiration. On Monday, I had a chance to be inspired while on a snorkeling trip.

While being able to swim amongst a variety of fish in their natural habitat was pretty cool, perhaps even more cool (at least from a nerdy, instructional design perspective) was this sign that I spotted near the water.

sign reading "Stay 50 yards away from dolphins"

This sign offers several things that could be helpful to keep in mind if you’re going to be developing a 1-page job aid any time soon. Here are some key take-aways:

Always put the bottom line on top

There is no mistaking the point of this sign. While there is imagery and more explanatory information down below, the headline is clear: Stay 50 yards away from dolphins.

If you’re designing a job aid, people should be able to look at it and instantly know what they’re looking at and why it’s important. You’ll be able to offer some details down below, but the first thing people’s eyes should go to in your job aid should explain what it’s for and why it’s important.

Inclusive is important

Sometimes people can look at something and think to themselves: I don’t think that’s actually for me. When you look at this sign, you can see that it’s for everyone who goes into the water. It’s not just important for boaters to stay 50 yards away, because it has nothing to do with motors. It’s not just for touristy snorkelers like me who aren’t familiar with native spinner dolphins. This rule applies to everyone – boaters, snorkelers, swimmers, kayakers, paddle boarders – anyone who could be in the water.

People feel a connection to dialogue

Whoever designed this could have simply put some text onto the sign that said:

  • Dolphins are nocturnal and need their rest during the daytime
  • If you get too close to dolphins, it makes it hard for them to rest

These bullet points would have been truthful and accurate and offered the “why” for this rule, but it not as easy to feel a connection to rule-laden bullet points. By showing the dolphins actually speaking (“We rest here during the day after feeding offshore at night”; “We can’t rest if you get too close or swim with us”) tugs at your heartstrings. Who wants to interrupt the poor dolphins? They just told me that they can’t rest if I get too close to them!

If you’re able to tell a concise story with short bits of dialogue, the information becomes more real and the learners become more emotionally invested.

Do you have a good example of an effective job aid? I’d love to see it, and maybe even share it in an upcoming blog post. Send me your job aid examples at:

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