Job-Aid Design: Tips, Tricks, What to Include, How to Format?

Feb 29, 2016

Hello helpful instructional design & training peeps, 

I've been working on designing a few job-aids lately and I was looking at templates and ideas for how to format it online when I thought... why not check with the best training community there is!

Does anyone have any tips, tricks, or best practices for creating job-aids? What do you include in your job-aid? How do you format it? What advice would you give someone who's about to create their first job-aid? 

Love to hear your ideas and feedback on this...

Thanks in advance!

31 Replies
Dave Ferguson

Hi, Walaa:

For me it's helpful to think about the different kinds of tasks that someone engages in, and I like to start from the different outcomes and figure out what's required.

For example, in my last job we had a set of policy documents related to pension administration. If I think of those as being in a searchable database, then I can imagine a couple of different tasks (which might not match yours, obviously):

  • How do I create my search? You mention predetermined words -- are they in a drop-down list? A set of objects I can drag?
  • Can I save or reuse a search? Can I modify one I've saved?
  • How do I navigate the results of a search? Can I open one result then jump immediately to the next, or do I have to go back? Can I look at a list of results and refine it (to narrow it down)? Can I redo my original search from that result screen, or do I have to go elsewhere?
  • What can I do with the specific result, such as one or more documents? Can I save them (not the search terms, but the results)? Can I print them? Forward them?

Depending on the detail, you've got maybe three parts (create including save; navigate; work with results). That could be one job aid, or three. If it were one, maybe the first part or page would be a link to each of the subparts.

Since I assume you don't know exactly what a person will be searching for, the search section might have explanations and simple examples.

  • To search for all documents with governance  :: Click GOVERNANCE
  • For all contracts related to services  ::  Click CONTRACTS and SERVICES
  • For hiring procedures except for IT  ::  Click HIRING, PROCEDURES; hold CTRL, click X and IT

...Just some notions to get you started.

Dave Ferguson


I've done a lot of work with (and advocating for) job aids. One thing that's helpful, I think, is to see both job aids and training-to-memory (which is really "learning," but makes a better contrast in this case) as paths to a larger goal: someone able to accomplish some task. These aren't the only ways, but maybe the prime ones when information is involved.

So, if people have to accomplish this cluster of tasks related to the inventory system, there are probably some terms and concepts they need to learn (store in their heads so they can retrieve in appropriate situations), like lead time or safety stock or minimum order. And there are probably several tasks they'll carry out every day, so learning makes senses for requesting inventory status, reviewing current orders, recognizing shortages, whatever. (We might use job aid formats to help people learn the process and practice these in training, but these job aids are more like training wheels, and we intend that people won't need them for long.

Other task are infrequent, or have many steps, or have high consequence for error, or have other features that argue for using job aids.

The key point there is that it's not the size of the task, nor the size of the job aid: if it takes 57 steps to optimize the widget former, that's how many steps it takes, and you could end up with a large job aid, or perhaps a set of six job aids (one for each major stage of the widget optimization process).

Because of who its customers are, IKEA's manual for assembling its Galant desk is 40 pages long -- not that you need all 40 for the desk you bought, but because that's what they needed to cover all the different combinations for the desk. I wrote about that here:

Rhonda McCullough

I design system trng with sims and so on, but lately, the request has been for job aids. These are basic to the point and in a table layout. I added bookmarks to skip steps but left out the links to other documents due to the nature of the change beast right now. I also created a storyline file where they could hover over the areas of the screen they didn't understand and it provided an explanation. 

More often than not, they are seldom used. You can have it easily available, specific, clear, and even interactive and if it gets a 10% hit rate you're happy. 

Don't overthink it and go with what works best for your client's situation. :)