Do Electronics’ User Manuals Help or Complicate?

User manuals are given at the purchase of a new item. I look at this as if the responsibility has been diverted and is now our own. The companies may always say that full instructions have been provided at purchase, and they have fulfilled necessary or minimum requirements.

Consumerist mentioned a study (here) which illustrated that many returned items work properly, but the consumers have difficulties operating them correctly. This demonstrates how some of us have difficulties using our products, and the user manuals are not helping. Some of these are over 200 pages long. Who has the time to read that? This solution is awkward, makes it difficult to find the relevant areas, and mostly create more complexity.

My Dad found a shortcut and has never had to use a manual in his life. He takes the manual and gives it to me in order to explain to him only the features he is interested in. I showed him how to use the digital camera for the simplest functions, which are the only ones important to him personally, such as picture taking, zoom, review, delete, etc. On the other hand, my Mom taught me how to do my laundry without me having to read the manual. In this case, we have found ways to teach each other to use products each of us are familiar with. By sharing our knowledge, we have saved ourselves a lot of time.

As much as technology and innovation are supposed to simplify our lives, the products to do so are anything but. For this, assistance from others familiar with the products is much more beneficial.

Do you feel user manuals are helpful or just a complication? What is your solution?

4 thoughts on “Do Electronics’ User Manuals Help or Complicate?

  1. Eran Abramson.

    Thank you for your comments.

    Suzanne: I see how manuals are to avoid legal liabilities, but they also include valuable needed information. In some instances, I had to refer back to it for specific features, in order to remind myself how to use certain options.

    Jack: While the liability is on the company in case of injury and such, what about simply not knowing how to use the product? In some cases, people return products because they were too difficult to use. How do we solve this dilemma? What is a better way to teach consumers how to use their products?

    Shanna: Quick start guides are definitely helpful. I have learned to simply use those and not the manual when I purchase a product. As you mentioned, the manual should be kept for additional information that is important. As I asked Jack, I wonder how we as consumers can learn to use the additional features of the products we own, not just the basic ones.

    Reply
  2. Shanna Shapiro.

    I used to work at Briggs & Stratton in Product Development of their engines. One of my projects was to develop a Quick Start Guide for a trimmer.
    A manual is needed for all of the legal warnings, but is not user friendly. Quick Start Guides can help with that…but then consumers end up keeping the Quick Start Guide and ditching the Manual. That’s not a good move.
    Working on that project involved much time with the Legal Department and making sure to include all pertinent warning labels for starting the engine and its normal use.

    Manuals can be overated, but are still very much needed.

    I have not and probably will not use my camera manual..however I was advised to pull out my car manual as a coworker was helping me change my flat tire.

    Reply
  3. Jack Reymond.

    Regarding the last comment, this is called the “no fault” view of accidental product injuries. According to the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), an independent regulatory agency,the burden of responsibility will be on the company most of the time as the consumer is considered to be an ‘idiot’.

    Reply
  4. Suzanne Riley.

    Hi Eran,
    I heard about a US law stating manufacturers are held liable for any harm caused due to misuse of their products. It often seems that user manuals are written to avoid legal liability instead of helping the customers use their products…

    Reply

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