Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tutorials and How Tos - 30 Lessons in Blogging

I've been looking back over my early blog posts to see how I started out with tutorials.  I found my first one - three months after I started blogging - for simple coasters, made from old car windscreen shades and fabric scraps!

Looking back, it's not a bad tutorial - I had the clear photos and instructions, but I can also see I've learnt lots since then.

My tutorials are currently the biggest traffic source for my blog. This wasn't the intentional focus I developed, but it's something I enjoy doing and I guess since I am a teacher by trade, it's part of who I am to share my knowledge and help others to learn.

Do tutorials need to be original?

I never claim to be the first to have thought of a project. Everything is inspired by something else; a finished object you've seen and admired, another tutorial with a similar idea or maybe something you already have that needs adapting for your own personal use.  There are thousands of tutorials out there on the internet - and I doubt there are many that aren't duplicated here and there in various different forms.  But there are always different ways to explain things, different angles to photo things from and alternate methods to achieve the same result. 
If you want to produce tutorials or 'how-tos' don't worry that there may already be a tutorial out there for the same thing - just do it your way and make it your own.

Learn from others

Over the years I've not only produced my own tutorials, but I've followed lots of other people's tutorials too.  I've learned plenty of new techniques and tricks, but also found the parts that I feel are missing from some tutorials that I make sure and include in my own. Extra steps and explanations that may seem obvious to some people, but not to others.  
People's minds work in different ways, and while one tutorial may seem crystal clear to one person, it could be equally confusing to another.  

Accept and listen to feedback

I'm happy to edit and add to my tutorials after they have been published if I receive comments and suggestions that point out errors or useful additions.

One major thing I changed thanks to feedback I received from readers was with the measurements I used.
I mostly work in cm and metres, and so my tutorials all use those measurements. Early on, I had many comments from people asking for the measurements in inches, so now I always include both measurements in every tutorial I make and I went back through all my older tutorials and added the alternate inches measurements.  I also have a measurement conversion widget in my blog sidebar that my readers can use.

5 Tips for creating tutorials

Having created well over 100 tutorials now, I have learned some key factors that are important to remember when producing your own tutorial.
Here is an example of one of my own tutorials which I'm proud of and is also one of the most popular ever on my blog.

  • Title:  Clear and simple. Make sure and include the words 'tutorial' or 'how to make a' in the title as this is how most people would search for them on Google.

  • Main Photo: It's really worth using a photo editor to make a good main photo for a tutorial. I use Picmonkey which allows you to edit the photo and add all sorts of special effects, titles and frames. I usually add my blog title and url on the bottom too. This photo is important as it's what people might pin or use to feature your tutorial, or equally what you would use to link to linky parties.

  • Clear photos of every step:  I always try to include both a photo and a written description for each step. The words and picture complement each other when trying to explain how to do something.

  • Never assume your readers already know a technique:  If I'm following a tutorial and it explains something I already know how to do, I can just skip that part, but if it asks me to do something I'm unsure of, but doesn't explain it, I'm stuck! You're better to over explain and simplify than miss bits out.

  • Show the finished item in use:  Always try to show a picture of the finished object being used. If it's a bag - fill it with something, a pencil case - add pens and pencils, an item of clothing, get someone to model it.  This makes it much more appealing to someone who might want to try making it.

  • Make your tutorials easy to find:  I spent a lot of time organising my tutorials into categories, and putting them onto easy to navigate pages and into my sidebar. Since they are my biggest traffic source, I want to make them as easy to find and browse through as possible.

Tutorials and How Tos are a great thing to have on your blog.  People want to get something out of reading your blog - whether it's entertainment, news or knowledge. A tutorial is also a resource that can bring you traffic for years to come.

How about you?

Do you include tutorials or how tos on your blog?
What do you like or dislike about tutorials you have followed or used?


  1. Hi Jill!
    The first posts on my blog only shows photos of my projects. No tutorials, only a few words in German. More and more people ask my how to do some projects. So I started to write little tutorials. Then more and more people were disappointed because they do not understand German. So I started to write my posts in two different languages. (Ok, my English is really not so good, but I try my best.)
    Some people told me that my photos are not good, most of them want to see nearly professional photos. I'm not a photographer, only use a simple digital camera, but I started to use PicMonkey.
    I think blogging is a never ending learning process.

    I love your blog and read your posts every week!
    Hugs from Germany

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment about my blog! I think it's amazing that you can write your tutorials in both German and English! and you have such great projects to share too. I agree, blogging is never ending learning, but the best thing about that is how generous everyone is in sharing what they learn, so we can all help each other move forwards!


I love comments and try to respond to them all. Thanks for taking the time !