How long is a piece of string?
How long does an article needs to be to explain a concept? Well... that depends on:
- How complicated the concept is.
- How much background knowledge the target audience has.
The whole thing is super contextual, so I seriously doubt you'll be able to find anything providing a 'magic figure'.
Check move on, check move on, check move on, on and on...
What could aid you is some understanding of the cognitive processes that facilitate efficient learning.
As you read this sentence, your brain needs to ensure that each word makes sense on its own and within the context of the sentence. So first, are words.
Then, a whole sentence needs to make sense.
Then a whole paragraph.
And so on...
So the mechanism is understanding the lower level stuff first, then the higher level stuff.
The brain isn't a tape recorder, and one of its greatest bottlenecks is short-term memory. So instead of recording the script, the brain builds models of meanings.
So, effective communication needs to ensure that at each level understanding is achieved.
Here's an example:
"If you can't say it with flours, then don't say anything."
If you are familiar with the saying "If you can't say it with flowers, then don't say anything" two things might have happened:
- You have skipped the word 'flours' since your brain formed an expectation for the word 'flowers' and the two are rather similar.
- You have stopped to consciously evaluate whether this is a spelling mistake.
In the latter case, there's no 'check' - you're brain comes across something unexpected and has to stop and think about it.
Now consider we complete the paragraph:
"If you can't say it with flours, then don't say anything" said the baker.
The whole thing makes sense, being an accepted word-play.
People understand once they do
This is a daft statement, but not a false one. You can promote understanding by ensuring each 'atom' is understood in itself, and relation to what's precedes it.
So I don't think you can argue that 6, 8, or 10 are 'right' amount of steps for a tutorial. Just ensure each step is understood.
I hear someone shouting "User testing".