RE: Ikea method of technical writing (graphical instructions)

Subject: RE: Ikea method of technical writing (graphical instructions)
From: "Peter Gold" <peter -at- knowhowpro -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2007 11:35:17 -0500

"Martinek, Carla" <CMartinek -at- zebra -dot- com> wrote:

If the graphics had been of better quality, perhaps I
might not have made my mistake. I'm just happy it was on a $12 piece of
furniture, and not a $400 piece I bought from them!

I'm hazy on where I read this, but I recall reading about the common
tendency to blame oneself for one's problems engaging satisfyingly
with technology. "I must be too dumb to use this," is the common

There was some discussion about the psychological roots of this
self-deprecating behavior, as well as the surrounding clouds of
societal influences that may provoke or amplify it. All I remember is
the usual inconclusive conclusions.

However, for my two cents, I'd suggest that, at least for this
particular product's instructions, user testing was insufficient.
Whether there was some or none, apparently no users who were
unfamiliar with the instruction style, as well as the realm of
required tasks and skills were closely observed performing the
operations by following the instructions. It's possible that every
observed tabula-rasa user succeeded in aligning the pieces properly; I
can't guess the odds.

The best solution would probably to design the product that can't
easily be assembled mis-aligned. Some great examples are this aren't
immediately obvious, though, you can see it when disassembling a box
you bring home full of groceries from a supermarket, to flatten it for
recycling. The combination of well-tested design, precise cuts and
scores, and undoable glues, make a very strong package that you can
deconstruct easily.

A general solution to the documentation problem might be to develop
and include some graphic instructions that illustrate techniques like
"dry fitting" or halfway-nailing the parts before permanently
fastening them.

A more-specific improvement would be to include a close-up inset that
illustrates the necessary alignment.

Now, if all the above is true, can any iPhone users reading this
thread give testimony that it's as intuitive and easy to master as the
ubiquitous commercials relentlessly insist so graphically?


Peter Gold
KnowHow ProServices

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