Assembly instructions for a side table

December 7, 2020

Months ago, I got a side table for my reading chair and gave it a single purpose: to keep beverages (coffee, mostly) within arm’s reach as I devour knowledge. Since then it’s also learned to hold aloft a snake plant and whatever book I’m pretending to read at the moment.

Like me, the table is not very tall and has brown legs. Unlike me, it has a “faux marble” top. The side table is moderately impressive. The assembly instructions are thoroughly so.

The open

The front page gets right to the point. Here’s what you bought (“Amalia Faux Marble Side Table” to be precise), what it looks like, and how to get help.

Let’s get rolling

Because of their prominence, copywriters can lose sleep trying to make their headlines a perfect blend of informative, witty, on-brand, and short. It’s not necessary. This one isn’t particularly clever. It’s an affable phrase to set the mood. It works because most people don’t like assembling things and they don’t like reading stuff. Might as well start them off easy.

Turbo mode

I’m inspired by their estimated time for assembly. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by “Turbo Mode?” It isn’t a joke; they tell you how to do it. With an electric drill and an Allen bit, you can save three whole minutes.

Weight warning

Information of this kind is typically buried with a host of other warnings. I like that they’ve used this space to make a simple point. Putting “75 lbs” on a kettlebell makes the point in as few words as possible.

Contact information

They choose to repeat the contact information from the front page. I could see a designer (or editor) pushing back on this choice, but it’s smart. Why not use the space if you have it?

The goods

The rest of the instructions proceed in the wordless, diagrammatic style we’ve come to expect from other flatpack furniture brands like Ikea. This headline is fantastic.

Time for pizza?

This is so stupid I might actually like it.

Return policy

I missed this the first time. The manufacturer has a “zero-hassle” replacement policy if you have a problem. Using an emoji-stuffed table, Nathan James shows exactly what this means.

We really don’t want you to go through the hassle of re-packaging your item and sending it back, because let’s be honest… nobody has time for that

Wise words.

Safety instructions

Only a select few psychos (like me) peruse safety guidelines, but with instructions like these, I bet I’m not alone. And that’s the point of well-designed content. Copywriter Joe Sugarman wrote that:

The sole purpose of the first sentence in an advertisement is to get you to read the second sentence of the copy.

And it should be a slippery slope from there. By engaging the reader from the beginning, they’re more likely to read the whole thing.

Sentimental wrap up

Sure, it doesn’t cost Nathan James a thing to say: “For starters, thanks for being you.” But it’s a swell sentiment all the same. On the rest of the page they repeat their contact information and provide an easy way to register the product.

Here’s what I like: Instead of begging you to write a review like most brands, the founder makes a case for why you should want to write a review. The entire pitch is solid. They start by asking you to tell your friends and family or even better to leave a review online. This is a “foot-in-the-door” technique. If you assent to the first clause, you’re more likely to consider the second.

They follow this up with why writing a review is better for you. Spreading the love helps make “more people happy” (appeal to my altruism) and keeps prices low for the next purchase (appeal to my wallet).

It’s probably easier to put together this table than it was to put together these assembly instructions. I commend whoever wrote it for their thoughtful and intentional content design.