Manuals or manually?
How many of you actually read a device manual rather than trying to find your own way through the device? How many of you spend time checking the help files of an application or browsing the help center of a website or social network, instead of googling your issue or joining a relevant forum? Not many, I would guess. But why?
On the one hand, time matters. Who would prefer to navigate a labyrinth of information instead of trying to find their way in a couple of minutes?
On the other hand, a stereotype has emerged – and it is not an unfair one: “It is not necessary to read manuals and help files. If you have an issue or a question, then google it, test it on your own by trial-and-error, ask others.”
In other words, there is a growing lack of trust on the users’ side; users tend to believe that manuals and help files are not necessary. Really, why should we trust a manual more than our intuition? Why should we visit a social network’s help center and not just ask any random user on the web? At the end of the day, why don’t we do both?
Manuals and help files are the official documentation created by the developers of a “product” (that is, a concept, an app, a device, a website, etc.). This means that they provide instructions regarding the proper use of their product, they provide us with all actual details about safety issues, they assume responsibility if something does not work (remember “null and void” guarantees, application conflicts, system failures, etc.), they know exactly what works in their system and how. To put it simply: they have the know-how, but they usually fail to convince us that we should consult them first instead of looking elsewhere for information.
So, how can we regain the trust of our users? This issue is further investigated in Simplicity, the ultimate sophistication.
Author: Yannis Evangelou