We keep wondering why users won’t RTFM, but just look at our FMs! Nice brochures are printed on that coated silky paper that begs to be touched, while the manual is printed on scratchy office-grade paper. Even just that one change–making the user manual as touchable as the marketing material would be a good start.

Why marketing should make the user manuals!

I remember the time that I first attempted to use someone’s ‘s bioni-age souped-up digital SLR, which, to my chagrin, no matter how much I tinkered with it, stayed on the “P” mode.

I don’t usually go about RTFM when the product or service is easy to use in the first place. What really ticks me off is a terribly developed product or service accompanied by a terribly designed FM. Just because something is complicated does not mean it’s smart. It’s just complicated.

Kathy Siera‘s post about focusing too much on the tool rather than the user (or the use of the tool) makes a lot of sense. A few key ideas:

  1. Are we focusing too much on the tool (e.g. camera) rather than the thing our users are trying to do with the tool (e.g. photography)? And by “focusing”, I mean that your documentation, support, training, marketing, and possibly product design are all about the tool rather than whatever the tool enables.
  2. Is the product just too damn hard to use even if a user does know what they want to do with it?
  3. Do we encourage/support a user community that emphasizes mastery of the thing the tool is for?
  4. Do we train our users to become better at the thing they use the tool for, in a way that helps make the need for all those other features seem obvious?