Almost all online help (OLH) "best practices" and solutions seem designed exclusively for software and assume that the tasks will be performed directly on a computer. Now, what about help for field installers of complex systems built from physical hardware components? These components form the building blocks for several distinct higher-level solutions.

Installation technique can be crucial, and the installers vary widely in terms of expertise. Sometimes, conceptual or engineering knowledge is required to make adjustments in the field. It would be great to include animations but have it integrated with other media types. Installers may have limited English language skills. Search features might need visual matching. Sometimes, the same hardware component has different usages depending on context. And, a subset of users/readers might be looking for engineering details or regulatory information.

My particular application is a patented rooftop mounting system for solar PV arrays, but other examples could include repair for specific high-end automotive brands, or military equipment field guides.


3 Answers 3


Based on your question, I am guessing you are looking for help page/guide examples for unfamiliar or complex hardwares. I haven't looked into many hardware sites or seen many examples of what you described but I'd start digging through hardware company help pages and see if that helps. e.g. Here is the help guide from Nest which is a thermostat.


This is a very nice question!

I think video's might the best solution for your problem. However you could also do a step-by-step photo guide like on the diynetwork.com:


On gamespot there's also a guide on how to install your computer http://www.gamespot.com/forums/pc-mac-discussion-1000004/picture-guide-to-computer-building-and-hardware-in-26986920/

This might be a bit more in the direction of your complex situation, the first example seems kinda simple, where the 2nd one goes more in depth, and also requires a higher level of correctness.

I think you should also keep the following things in mind:

  • For who am I creating this guide?
  • How will the End User use them, and what system are they using now.
  • What will the learning curve be.

If it is for installers(end user), you'd better ask their ideas aswell. They might be able to tell you which system/method they prefer.


My Brother printer has a nice little bit of software, built out of Flash and which installed with the printer drivers, that provides an animated guide to replacing the toner cartridge.

The advantage of this over a youtube video is that you can step it through the stages as you go through the process.

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