Absolutely nothing, if no one reads them.
The view of many people when they encounter a new gadget and its instructions is “Do I have to read all that?“, “which bit do I need to look at?” These are typical of the comments we heard during a recent lengthy usability study; even the people who professed to read instructions thoroughly only skimmed through them. They blanched when the multi-lingual/multi-model user manual appeared. When presented with these tomes, the frustration and despair of users is palpable.
Instructions are synonymous with restaurant menus; people only want to dip in and out, their eyes scanning and concentrating on the interesting bits. Once the reader feels they’ve gleaned enough information from the quick perusal, they’re ready to start using the gadget.
Now, I’m no angel when it comes to following instructions. I often only glance at information and then have to go back to the instructions when I can’t even switch a device on. I’m not alone. People seem happier tinkering and poking, figuring out how to do something manually, believing they have downloaded the basics with their cursory scan of the information. Continue reading