There is a saying that men do not like to ask directions if they can’t find their way while driving a car. Being lost and having no clue of their whereabouts is not a problem as they’ll eventually figure things out – sometimes to the chagrine of their partner. Could the same idea apply to reading installation instructions? Men may think they have that ability to assemble most things while they bypass the instructions – sometimes successfully and sometimes inefficiently but it’s a certain risk to do so.
Personally, I’m sure there have been times I didn’t stop for directions, but that’s an exception rather than the rule. Regarding installation instructions, I typically didn’t bypass them because I know they can be important, although, as time marches on, I’m more likely to bypass them and complete the task with my intuition and sensorial approach.
Why would I bypass install instructions? Over the years, while doing home maintenance, I have found only about 20% of all install instructions are good. When I say good, I mean the instructions include large enough diagrams, are logically laid out in plain English, contain solid print, and include a complete and understandable legend where all pieces are correctly identified. Showing some close up images of key steps in the install process as well as color images could be invaluable. I can speak for everyone but from my experience, inferior instructions over time will condition installers to eventually bypass them and assemble things on their own using just tools and intuition.
Most of the time, I will give the instructions about 15 seconds of love and if they are unclear or inferior, I will engage in self-assembly.
This isn’t brain surgery – why shouldn’t companies utilize a focus group to “test out” the instructions to ensure they are clear and useful? Better yet, before the product is released, utilized employees unfamiliar with the process to provide honest feedback on the instructions and how the product is packaged. While we’re dealing with common sense, should companies pay close attention to the written and oral feedback they receive on certain products – hearing from some disgruntled customers might be impetus to modify to improve the instructions? Would not improving the instructions over time be considered a positive aspect of customer service and therefore, good business?
I don’t know about you but I don’t believe instructions for household items have improved over the years. And I don’t know why?