This is what happens when the product manual is written by people who know the product too well.
Indeed, flip does do a lot of things right in their manual. They load it up with illustrations, avoid technical terms and create a layout that leaves little doubt as to what copy is talking about what process. Still, they practice the cardinal sin of assuming people can fill in the blanks. For example:
- It tells you what the software can do, but doesn’t tell you how to install it.
- The “insert the batteries” instructions don’t warn you about the extremely delicate (read breakable) tabs on the cover.
- They assume you know how to set the time and date.
- They don’t tell you what those numbers mean on the video screen.
- People who want to jump to imovie or moviemaker are left on their own to find out just where their videos are located.
- This lack of information lead one reviewer to, understandably, believe that this was not Mac friendly.
- Things go wrong with products. They freeze, people push the wrong buttons, etc. For example, how do you reset the time and date?
- Another problem with that skimpy manual is that it’s easily lost. Posting it online would be a matter of two scans and a link– something that can be done in minutes.
While their manual may be perfectly adequate for people who are electronic gizmo intuitive, it fails to accept the fact that many people lack that skill. As someone who taught classroom technology to hundreds of teenagers, I can testify that many members of the digital generation need explicit, step-by-step instruction. I can also state, with a good deal of confidence, that, should you want to offer this as a gift to Grandma, chances are Grandma would be lost the moment she took it out of the box.
All of these are easy fixes. How do we know that?
Because we fixed them. We started with a paper manual. For a cost of 49¢ they could give their customers this:
Were you to look inside, (and you can by clicking here) you’d see full page illustrations that do more than tell you what’s what, they show you:
That’s if you want a printed manual. As a stand alone pdf, it’s a different story. In that case, it should be able to interact with the reader. It should get a sense of what the viewer is looking for and steer them in the right direction.
Here’s an example of that:
Rather that asking the viewer to search, it asks them where they want to go. As s a result, the viewer is not overwhelmed by the “Gee, I have to know all this” response and, instead, is told things on a need to know basis. Smaller bites, when learning, are always inherently easier to swallow. Easier to swallow yet. at least for many people, is a short video. Here’s a short video that explains the first thing you should do with your flip ultra.
Of course, there are those who need to see it, hear it and have it broken down into tiny bites. This is for them: