Ikea Instructions: They Have Finally Gotten It Right

We’ve all been there.  We need to buy a room of furniture, and we want something nice that doesn’t cost the Earth.  So, we go to Ikea because their stuff looks so cool, and it’s cheap, and there’s so much of it with such interesting names. And, after spending half a day or more roaming the impulse-buy extravaganza maze that is Ikea (a protracted and fervent act of retail seduction that deserves its own entry) we struggle home with our new dining suite, which has been distilled into half a dozen heavy, flat boxes.

But that is only the beginning.  The evil of Ikea...or the genius, if you prefer, is that you have to assemble all of the furniture.  I don’t know about you, but at no point in my life did I ever think to myself, “Gosh, wouldn’t it be a hoot to put my own furniture together?”  And yet, I have found myself doing that very thing (and more) every time I buy something from Ikea. 

So, how to begin? (Hint—tables are easier than china cabinets.) The first step is to open the first box, find the instructions, and take inventory.  For many years, this is where it really got frustrating--not fighting your way through Ikea trying to not buy things you don’t need, not getting the huge unwieldy boxes onto your cart through checkout and into your car.  No, no.  The hardest part of Ikea furniture has always been the assembly.

Years ago, when I bought my first Ikea furniture (the aforementioned dining suite) I assumed that putting it all together would be easy.  I assumed this because the instructions were all pictures, and each step of the assembly was shown in detail.  However, I quickly started having problems.

Despite the fact that the image-based instructions made assembly look easy, there were a few things Ikea overlooked.  First of all, many of the pieces look similar, and it wasn’t always apparent which piece their instructions was referring to.  This applied not only to large pieces like panels and shelves, but to small pieces like screws and nails.  Secondly, it wasn’t always easy to figure out which way the pieces needed to be turned.  More than once I had to take apart and reassemble a piece because I turned something backward or upside down.

So, I was pretty happy the last time I looked at some Ikea instructions to see that they had taken steps to eliminate some of these earlier problems.  The first thing I noticed is that Ikea now includes information right up front about what kind of tools you will need; so, there’s no more scrambling for that Phillips screwdriver or level while you are in the middle of putting something together.

Ikea Instructions: Tools Needed

The second thing I noticed is that Ikea now makes an extra effort to make sure you understand which side is which.  You can see this in the image below, which was taken from the most recent Bjursta china cabinet instructions.

Ikea Instructions: The Correct Side

Thirdly, Ikea has made some minor cosmetic changes to the look of the instructions that really make them easier to use. Look at the image below which compares the same step in Billy shelf instructions from twelve years ago (top) to the ones that come with the same shelf today (bottom).  The new images are more sharply drawn, which eliminates that bad photocopy look that Ikea instructions used to have, and the insets are a little larger, which makes them easier to see.  Also, they make a note of when parts are confusingly similar by including a “this not that” reference.  Lastly, notice the tip they include about using books to prop up the shelves to make it easier to fit them into their respective slots.

Ikea Instructions: Compare Old and New Billy Instructions

No doubt there are people who will still have problems assembling Ikea furniture, but these improvements show Ikea’s awareness of their users and a williness to make changes that improve the usability of their instructions, which, unfortunately, is more than a lot of companies can say.

Ikea Bjursta Instructions