How To: Make IKEA-Like Documentation with Composer

Here's how to make documentation like IKEA in 3 Simple Steps with SOLIDWORKS Composer

A few weeks ago I went to my very first IKEA store. Let me just say, the hype is real. I was lured in by their modern designs and did purchase a few things. When I got back home and began assembling the light that I purchased it was very clear why companies strive to create documentation like IKEA. The instructions were very clear and did not require any text to get the message across. Why can’t all documentation be this good? Well, let’s talk about how you can create documentation like IKEA.

Easy-to-read documentation from an IKEA manual.

1. Transition away from physical photos in your documentation.

Physical photos are great in that the realistic aspect makes it easier to comprehend but utilizing CAD models allows you to begin creating the documentation before prototypes or production parts can be manufactured. The other benefit of using CAD models is in the above image. That detail view is not something that can be done in a physical picture without a lot of work. Physical photos also require a studio and professional camera, and both take up space and initial investment.

2. That doesn’t mean take screenshots of drawings.

Just because I said you should not be taking physical pictures doesn’t mean you should just take screenshots from a SOLIDWORKS drawing. Granted, this is probably better than physical photos but does lack ease of use. Generating all of those assembly configurations and drawing views can certainly weigh down your files and is cumbersome to do.

3. Invest in software dedicated to technical documentation.

Usually, those that are creating the technical documentation are separate from engineering. Utilizing SOLIDWORKS is generally not an option due to not wanting to allow the documentation group access to change the engineering files, among other reasons. Software like SOLIDWORKS Composer is meant to work with the CAD files and generate content very similar to that of IKEA.

Composer does not alter the SOLIDWORKS native files but does work with them directly. The documentation can be updated if there is a revision change in SOLIDWORKS. Things like arrows, detail views, exploded lines, dimensions and much more can all be added right within Composer, even manipulating the assembly to that of the writer’s desires. The writer does not need to write out lengthy steps because of the limited pictures they are provided. They are in control of the entire thing.

4. Don’t use so much text

I know I said three steps but here is a bonus. When there is a lot of text on a page it becomes overwhelming and makes it more difficult to assemble. More images with smaller instructions per is a much easier and cleaner way to accomplish the same task. In this day in age, all instructions are available online for download. Does it really matter if the PDF that the end-user is downloading has more pages? IKEA gets away with using almost no text. 

Hopefully, you can implement these things into your documentation to increase the quality but also be more efficient in your process. Take a look below if you want to see how to make your documentation process easier.