Manual madness: Do you read your gadget guidebook?

Zara Rabinowicz column.jpg

I know this is going to sound shallow but when I’m testing gadgets one of the tests I use is seeing how long I can play with it before I need to resort to the manual. And if it’s never, the device will rank quite highly on my inner gadget scale. It’s not that I’m lazy (well, have you seen how tiny the writing is on some manuals?) it’s that I’m trying to get into the ‘average’ consumer head and they want plug and play devices that don’t require brain surgery or complicated wiring. And when I do resort to the manual, I want it simple, lucid and preferably illuminated with helpful colour pictures and a big font.

But this doesn’t seem to be the norm. At all. But why?

Surely manufactures want you to like their products and be happy and confident with it, so an incomprehensible manual seems rather foolish. I understand they have to put safety warnings all over it to cover their own back, as an iPod could accidentally choke somebody, but why isn’t all this guff at the back not the front. After you’ve waded through pages of info on how to charge said device, only then do you get to the operating menus.

Testing out the Xperia X1, which is by no means a simple phone, I was confounded by the concertina like instruction booklet which expanded to broadsheet size and was impossible to follow.

Every now and then you do learn something impressive from the manual (the Sim tracker on Nokia phones was one such option where if a phone is stolen you can set it to call your friends) but that was hidden within the bowels of a tiny booklet in size 7 Times New Roman font.

It seems like really poor strategy to bundle up the booklet this way, as you’re going to piss off customers. Fair enough, to have a shoddy booklet for a very simple phone but something that’s complex? Tut, tut. And don’t even get me started on machines where the manual is pre-installed so there’s no paper booklet. If you’re having trouble navigating pages their help guide is going to be rather ridiculous now isn’t it?

I’ve made a decision to avoid gadget handbooks for as long as possible, aNd will remain cursing at my toys for quite some time. Manufacturers I appeal to you, make you guides more concise! I can’t be alone in this hatred.. can I?

Zara Rabinowicz writes for Shiny Shiny and Kiss and Makeup and dislikes reading manuals Especially ones in Japanese.

Zara Rabinowicz