Instructions Have To Be Effectively Designed For All Users In Mind

Publication5I work with Microsoft products quite a bit and invariably I’ll have a question about MS Word, Excel or Visio so I utilize these MS products hopefully to get my issue resolved. Utilizing help, I’ll sometimes get an answer and continue to use the product. Sometimes, the software is a new version or I’m unable to secure an answer so my next option is online. The instructions are often confusing or don’t target what I’m looking for. I eventually turned to Google to get help with these MS products and other answers. It typically serves my need so I became more accustomed to doing this, I’d curse former Microsoft executives Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

I will admit that today, MS help is a little more helpful. If answers are required, I may use their help before using a search engine. Still, they have not completely designed their help feature to be reliable so I leverage the internet search. Based on my experience, Google is more intuitive than Bing so that’s my first online option. There are times Bing works too, is it ironic that Microsoft’s search engine is sometimes more effective at finding an answer to Microsoft’s software than the software itself?

I wonder if other MS software users feel the same way with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.?

Moving on to another product, we needed to install window blinds as our old blinds finished their shelf life. Mind you, these blinds are not that expensive, I believe my wife ordered these through an online blinds store, the type of store that has hundreds of colors and styles. I mention that because intuition suggests inexpensive items typically have inferior instructions. It’s not a one to one relationship but generally, you can’t expect instructions in color, with large print, that’s systematically and properly labels all contents.

Some patient individuals will spend a lot of time with the instructions determining how the brackets fit on the blinds. In IMG_2555addition, they may examine how one determines the front and back to each blind. These individuals may also engage in “hands on” for a while once they’ve put the instructions aside. If still no success, they’ll eventually either call the company or go online for clarification.

After about 15-20 minutes of patience, my wife decided to go online (not to the company website) but to a site where other past users help each other overcome the installation hump. Tricks and tips on how to effectively install the brackets and which side is outward facing. The alternative site did the trick.

What if this company that sold blinds had a help line? How many installers would at some point throw up their hands and call? If so, what’s the incurred expense? If 10% of purchasers of these blinds called customer service, how long would it take before the company connected the dots and determine their instructions are sub-par? In addition, do companies that sell blinds or ceiling fans ever scour the web to see if alternative sites have been created to bypass the instructions that were included? This indirect feedback could be used by these companies to improve their instructions, of course, there has to be the will to do so. Maybe improved instructions would directly impact the price one would pay?

IMG_2575One other suggestion companies could do is to create a pdf version of the instructions on their website. Instructions that are much larger and better graphics to improve the user install experience. Leveraging the internet and including better online instructions would certainly help this process and could apply to many instructions that could use aid including light fixtures, ceiling fans, window blinds and electronics equipment.

My wife asks me why I don’t read instructions, and my automated reply is that 80% of instructions are poorly written. It’s typically frustrating as my ideal instructions would be clear, concise and in the right order. In addition, if there are many pieces for assembly, I would like each of these unique materials to be identified with a name and code, the code could be a letter or number. One more thing, it would be useful if the instructions were large enough to read. More Americans are over the age of 50 than ever before in the US so more corrective vision is needed so increase the size of the font and images. It’s understood instructions have to be clear and legible. Anyway, designing them that way helps different people understand what it takes to succeed. If instructions are better designed, like a car, more people may buy into using them to get the job done. If so, wouldn’t that be customer centric?

Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.

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