How to Create an Interactive Workbook That Gets Rave Reviews

The folks at Parks Canada know how to engage and educate their visitors. While visiting Gros Morne National Park, I picked up a couple of their free workbooks.

These mini guides are filled with fun activities the whole family can enjoy to explore the park and learns fun facts. And what’s cool about a workbook is it records the experience for future reference.

Imagine having a workbook to complement your book, online course, or workshop. What a great tool to keep learners engaged, provide self-guided practice, and use as a future reference.

Instead of giving your learners a few hundred downloadable worksheets to accompany your videos, why not give them a workbook instead. And you can also use your workbook as a possible marketing tool or even sell it as a separate product (ka-ching).

When the team at Powtoon got started with their animation software, founder and CEO Ilya Spitalnik wrote a workbook to download along with a trial of Powtoon.

That workbook takes you through the steps to create an awesome animated video, from writing a script through to producing a short animation. Genius. I got the workbook for free. (Now it’s for sale on Amazon.)

Using the workbook format, you can create an activity-based guide to take people through a series of exercises to achieve their goal. And you can add a bit of amusement with pictures, tips, and tricks.

Sounds like a valuable business asset, doesn’t it?

Let’s take a look at the elements and design to create an awe-inspiring workbook—one that gets rave reviews.

Activity-based content

Take your readers from start to finish through a process to achieve a result, like a mini project. Focus the content on solving a single problem. Avoid the kitchen sink syndrome—don’t dump everything you know about your topic into your workbook.

For example, you want to teach someone to write a sales page. Provide the steps to gather all the required content through to crafting a compelling page. Provide at least one example to demonstrate each step. Wrap up with a complete example someone can use as a model.

Include the information related to each task or activity within your workbook. Consider including these types of content:

  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Examples
  • Scenarios
  • Mini stories
  • Brief explanations
  • Before and afters
  • Tips
  • Exercises (or mini assignments or you try-its)
  • Mini quizzes
  • Links to additional resources

You want to ensure your content is well crafted, researched, relevant, and concise. What distinguishes a workbook from other guides and books is its focus on activity. You want to engage people quickly to have them practice skills.

User-friendly structure and format

The structure of you workbook helps someone move through the content easily. Create an outline that follows a logical order, for example steps in a process, easy to hard, recipe, or story.

Choose a hierarchy of headings and subheadings that is easy to follow. A content model for different types of information can increase your productivity and ensures consistency.

You want to include white space to make reading easy and to provide space for writing. Headings and visual elements help readers skim and glance through the material and find what they’re looking for.

Conversational writing style

A workbook doesn’t have to be work. Make it fun by using a conversational writing style:

  • Use contractions
  • Write in the active voice
  • Vary your sentence lengths
  • Address your reader with ‘you’ instead of ‘I’ or ‘We’
  • Choose simpler words
  • Cut the flab (aka wordiness)

Learn more about conversational writing .

Visual appeal

Make your workbook look great. Start with an enticing cover. Use a template that makes your workbook look professional. Consider these elements:

  • Font choices and font sizes
  • Colors
  • Graphic elements
  • Images
  • White space
  • Bulleted and numbered lists
  • Callouts
  • Sidebars
  • Branding

To keep someone engaged, make your workbook easy to read and enjoyable. Chunk your information into bite-sized pieces. Include different types of images such as photos, cartoons, illustrations, graphs and charts, and screenshots.

Consider printing costs and don’t overdo your guide with too much colour. Would you prefer to work on an 8.5” x 11” (portrait) or 11” x 8.5” (landscape) page.

Learn more about adding visual appeal to your workbook.

Navigation, usability and interactivity

Include a table of contents (TOC) to give your readers an overview of the workbook. Even for a short book of five or six pages, you can provide a mini TOC on the cover.

For a PDF, it’s helpful to provide hyperlinks to help readers navigate to specific pages from the TOC. A TOC that’s more than a page or two can overwhelm. So keep your TOC short by considering the level of headings you include.

To provide interactivity, if you are working with a PDF workbook, you can include these elements:

  • Fillable fields
  • Embedded media (audio, video, slides)
  • Links to external resources
  • Social share buttons

Bio and contact information

Don’t forget to include a brief description of who authored the workbook, your company, and services. It’s up to you whether you include this information at the beginning or end. My preference would be at the end to get people working as soon as they open your workbook.

A valuable business asset

You can create a workbook to accompany a book, an online course, an instructor-led program, a workshop, or self-paced learning activity — it’s that versatile.

Give your workbook away or sell it. Use it to help clients learn and promote your services and products.

Make your workbook a quality tool people crave. Craft engaging content. Create a user-friendly structure and format. Keep it conversational. Make it look great. And add interactive elements and good navigation.

Take your learners, your customers, your prospects on a journey to help them solve a problem.

Stand out from the crowd with a workbook you can be proud of.

Need help? Give me a shout. I know how to wrangle content like the folks at Parks Canada know how to explore nature.

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