Tech, Writing

The joy of minimal, easy-to-follow instructions


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The holidays have come and gone, and with them, several weeks of intermittent box opening, toy assembling, and instruction reading. Much fun was had, but I do have a complaint/observation: Why must companies continue to churn out really, really bad instructions? The instructions included with toys, gadgets, and other miscellaneous whatnots are laughably bad.

I have these specific gripes:

  • The writing isn’t clear.
  • The type is often minuscule.
  • The design is nonexistent.

Things don’t need to be this way. As Apple has demonstrated, it is possible to include set-up and operating instructions that are a joy to follow and make it possible to unbox your item, from a Macintosh computer to an iPhone, and start using it within minutes. Yes, minutes: even if it’s a marvel of technology. To do that, you need to leave a lot out of the instructions, or else make the device so completely simple you don’t need any instructions at all. Instead, many devices come with an instruction manual that’s a motley-looking mishmash of words thrown on a page and tossed in a box (or so it looks to someone hoping to play with something, rather than struggle with it).

Is there a secret to easy-to-follow instructions? Not really — though it helps if the product is designed in such a way that lots and lots of instructions aren’t necessary. Beyond that, it’s great if the company (1) offers very brief and clear instructions just to help you get started (a “Getting Started” guide, with big type and a friendly design), and (2) provides more detailed instructions online or in a separate guide or manual.

One Comment

  • sorry for the inconveniences and relieved to hear that it’s not only seniors and the technologically naive who suffer!

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