Instructions are essential

Even though we normally say crowdsourcing is all about engineering, writing comprehensive instructions is also an essential part of it. Here’s why:

  • Crowd performers are people you don’t know and they have a variety of backgrounds. This is the main strength of a crowd community, but it also demands concise and clear explanations of everything you’d like them to do. The clarity and completeness of the instructions will determine the quality of the responses you receive.
  • Well-structured instructions are an essential part of a well-decomposed task. Information is also mastered better when decomposed.
  • Even when the task lacks decomposition or good interface solutions, clear and comprehensive instructions may save it and provide the help performers will need.
Structure is key

If the instructions aren’t structured enough, even the most valuable content is hard to understand. Based on our field experience, we suggest the following pattern for organizing instructions:

  • Outline the goal
    How will the data be used? What products will it influence? Even a brief description makes performers care more about the task they are doing and helps them make decisions in complicated cases.
  • Define the rules
    Who gets access to the task? Is there a training session? Which quality level is acceptable? Are there any bonuses? Performers just love predictable projects with clear arrangements. Plus, knowing about quality control and extra rewards will motivate many of them to perform better.
  • Clarify technical issues
    If the task requires special settings on the performer’s PC or smartphone, provide clear instructions about that. Remember that performers have varying levels of technical ability.
  • Present the interface
    Add a screenshot showing all the necessary interface tools. This may not be necessary if the task is simple and there are no special interface features.
  • Describe the performance algorithms
    Write a step-by-step description of the task scenarios the performers might go through. 
    🔥TIP: Some scenarios might not be obvious for the requesters themselves. We strongly recommend that you try out some tasks while writing the instructions. Some rare cases might come up. This is also a good way to test your own instructions.
  • Add some examples
    Real-life examples are an absolute necessity. They should illustrate all possible scenarios.
  • Answer questions
    Add a FAQ with important hints that don’t fit in the sections above and update it later with questions submitted by performers. A small glossary is always a good idea, too.


  • The instructions shouldn’t be longer than 2 screens. If they are, this might mean the task needs to be decomposed.
  • There shouldn’t be more than 3 heading levels within the task instructions.
  • There shouldn’t be more than 7 subheadings on each level.
  • Each paragraph should cover a single topic. Each sentence should cover a single point.
  • If you need to use special terms, define them when first mentioned and use them consistently. If there are a lot of terms, a small glossary might help.
  • Avoid any professional slang, however common it may be among your colleagues.
  • Avoid placing extra remarks in parentheses, because they tend to overload the text. If the remark is valuable, it’s worth adding a separate sentence.
  • Use only as much formatting as needed to highlight the key points. Too much bold or italic makes it difficult to focus on what’s actually important.
  • Lists are always good.
  • So are tables.
  • Don't add pictures just for the sake of having pictures. Too many illustrations will make your text impossible to comprehend.
  • If there’s a real need to add a lot of illustrations, it’s better to hide them in an expandable section.
In Toloka, instructions can be put up using a visual editor or HTML markup. Learn more about creating and editing this section in our Requester’s guide.
Toloka News
Receive information about platform updates, training materials, education events and other news.
Wed Apr 28 2021 16:34:51 GMT+0300 (Moscow Standard Time)