I have only ever documented software.

One of my secret tech writer dreams is to write doco for tangible products.


Recently I bought a portable spinning wheel that folds up and fits into a carry bag. It is called a Joy and it is aptly named - a marvel of design and engineering.

When the box arrived, I had to assemble the wheel. A very exciting prospect because I like building things and I like reading instructions.

I was keen to play every tech writer’s favourite game of picking the guide to pieces.


Imagine my disappointment when it was actually quite okay!

The critique

It was two column layout. Some of the content ran down the page, some of it across. A trifle confusing but not too bad.

The guide started with a graphic parts list (Ikea style), but should have also included a labelled diagram of the assembled wheel.

Parts list

Spinning wheel parts have names that may be foreign to new users. Reading instructions like “Thread the flyer spindle into the top shaft…” and “Hold the whorl with one hand…” would be double-dutch to a new spinner.

Happy and sad faces were used to show the correct tension.


The re-write

One of the opportunities open to job-hunting tech writers is to take a poor example of writing, improve it and then send it back to the source.

I think I’ll take the high road on this one. I really like the Ashford company and their products. Although I could completely redesign their user guide, one could argue that there’s nothing really wrong with it since I managed to assemble the wheel with no problems.

Any anyway, I’d rather be spinning. Look how it folds up  - so cool!