Verification steps and personal stories in an instruction manual for seniors: Effects on confidence, motivation, and usability

Nicole Loorbach, Joyce Karreman, Michaël Steehouder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Research problem: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of two types of motivational elements—verification steps and personal stories—in an instruction manual for a cell phone targeted at senior users (between 60 and 70 years).

Research questions: What are the effects of adding verification steps and personal stories to an instruction manual on: (1) Seniors' confidence in being able to work with a cell phone? (2) Seniors' motivation to work with a cell phone? (3) Seniors' effectiveness and efficiency in performing tasks, and their satisfaction with the cell phone and the instruction manual (usability)? Literature review: To optimize products and services for older users, the literature suggests that two specific motivational elements may be beneficial: (1) verification steps, which provide information at the end of procedures to allow users to check if these procedures were performed correctly. These appear to users as part of conventional procedural information in user instructions and (2) personal stories, which are anecdotes or testimonials that describe how a fictitious user succeeded in completing a procedure.

Methodology: We conducted a quantitative experiment in which 59 seniors between 60 and 70 years of age participated. They performed a number of tasks with a cell phone, using a version of the instruction manual with added verification steps, or a version with additional personal stories, or a control version without motivational elements. We measured participants' confidence, their motivation, and usability by asking them to answer several questionnaires and by measuring task performance.

Results and conclusions: Results support the use of verification steps or personal stories as motivational elements in user instructions as they can positively affect confidence, motivation, and usability, especially when senior users encounter setbacks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-312
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE transactions on professional communication
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • ARCS model of motivational design
  • Confidence
  • Instruction materials motivation survey (IMMS)
  • Motivation
  • Seniors
  • Usability
  • User instructions


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