Reduce The Fine Manual, please
By chienr on Mar 24, 2008
Last Friday, we got a Samsung Blackjack II (not by choice) in the family and naturally, being the Chief Geek, I had the "honor" of setting the phone up. I have to say this Q/BlackBerry killer turns out to be quite a disappointment. The WM6 user interface is convoluted, the device is cluttered with AT&T junkware and the thumb keyboard feels cramped. Motorola's mobile enterprise messaging and calendaring suite called Good is a pain to use.
But the biggest turn-off is the booklet of manual that comes with the phone. Why couldn't the product designers make a feature so intuitive that it needs little to no explanation?
As WSJ's review of the Flip says: "[Devices should be] so simple, mastery is immediate, and so is your sense of pride and happiness."
The importance of that latter part is what the collective Microsoft-AT&T-Samsung-Motorola team did not understand and embrace. While they packed the smartphone with an impressive list of functionalities, they also overlooked the experience of unboxing the gadget for the first time. Result: customers are overwhelmed with features they can't use unless they read the manual first.
In contrast, Apple's approach to product design reflects in their minimalistic user manual. The entire iPhone manual comes on a single double-sided sheet with large screenshots.
If you make a consumer product, it's best to assume they won't read the manual at all.
If your product has features that are fragile or unusable without some manual reading up front, you need to rethink your design.
If you're improving on a product, slashing the existing manual by 50% or more should be a top priority. Then slash it again. Why do it if people aren't going to read it? Because the exercise forces you to create intuitive features, leading to a better experience, therefore a better product.