For every single quality graphic design tutorial out there, another 50 just plain suck. They’re poorly written, use bad graphics, are about bad graphics, or just altogether skip important steps. It’s a shame, but bad tutorials also create an opportunity for those who are willing to take the time to produce quality work.
Writing and publishing graphic design tutorials is an excellent way to promote yourself as a designer and establish yourself as an expert. It’s also a great way to build a community around yourself of other designers who can sharpen your skills.
Quality graphic design tutorials are worth taking the time to do right. So, in this short post, we will first take a look at the "Why" for writing better graphic design tutorials because this drives the "How."
Why Write Better Graphic Design Tutorials
1. Your readers deserve quality content
Nobody wants to get to a tutorial to find missing steps, poor graphics, or a mediocre design concepts. Your readers took the time to search and visit your site or article. Don’t waste their time with junk. You wouldn’t want that and they deserve to get quality instructions.
2. Search engines know the difference
Modern search engines can read bad grammar, poor spelling, and a lack of organization. Your site will get "punished" in terms of search engine rankings if you do a poor job. This is becoming more and more important for website owners. You may think it’s not that big of a deal – these are graphic design tutorials, after all. But people are less trusting of sites with poorly written content and search engine developers are aware of this fact.
3. You’ll be proud of your work
Few things are more gratifying than a published tutorial that you know is top-notch and has your name on it. You’ll be proud to promote it and the discussions surrounding your work will be much more positive. This goes to the point of why you may be writing graphic design tutorials in the first place. If you hope to use tutorials to build a reputation as an expert, then you’d better make sure your tutorials are high quality.
4. Others will be proud to share your work
People love to share quality resources. They get to be the one who lets others know about this little "gem" they found. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites are often where tutorials get discovered and even go viral. Badly written tutorials NEVER get this kind of attention. So it’s worth taking the time to build something excellent.
How to Write Better Graphic Design Tutorials
1. Quality designs
Always start with a design or concept that others would want to learn about. If it’s a mediocre idea, peolpe aren’t going to be excited about it. As a writer who also happens to do some design work, I’ve struggled in this area. I don’t have a lot of training and experience in design or design theory, so coming up with legitimate designs is tough. But this is critical. Take the time to make sure your design is worth emulating.
2. Strong organization
Using a Step 1, Step 2, and so forth approach can be very helpful for your readers. At a minimum, you should break your tutorials into sections using headings so they can get a sense of where they are in the process of the design. A well-organized tutorial will help break the process into small, easy-to-complete chunks. But make sure the sections are not only clearly written, but broken up into paragraphs and steps to improve readability.
3. Solid graphics
Have you ever stumbled onto one of those tutorials where the images are pixilated or the screenshots are so small you can hardly tell what’s going on? What does that do for your confidence in the designer? This illustrates just how important solid graphics are to the quality of a tutorial. I have started using full-size screenshots and highlight the sections of a screen I want the reader to notice. This produces consistent results and in a way brands my tutorials.
4. Complete steps
Don’t skip steps in the process. It’s sometimes easy to assume that the reader may have mastery of a particular part of the design process, but this is where you start to lose people. It’s always worth at least making a mention of even the smallest steps. For example, tell people where to find certain palettes; don’t just say "In the Appearance Panel, click on the…" Instead, say, "Go to Window -> Appearance Panel and click on the…" Then follow up with a graphic that demonstrates where to click.
5. Excellent resources
If your tutorials include fonts, backgrounds, brushes, patterns, or any other resources, make sure these resources are free for use and are high-quality. I’ve had tutorials that supplied a font, for example, that was not supposed to be used commercially and didn’t even include all the letters!
Don’t make this mistake. If you’re going to use 3rd party or resources you’ve developed, make sure they’re top-notch.
Don’t waste your own time or the time of your readers with mediocre graphic design tutorials. Your reputation will take a hit and readers won’t trust your work. Often the difference between a really great tutorial and a bad one is very small, for instance, a little better organization, a few more steps, or a better resource. So take the extra time to do it right – your readers will thank you.