I saw this video today demoing a very interesting user manual concept. Essentially, the manual wraps around a device with queues to manipulate the actual device, rather than some screenshots or photos. Basically the manual is more of a physical template (or jig, since I’m using template in the craftsman sense).
However, I can’t think of a worse device to apply this idea to than a touchscreen smartphone.
Let me explain: I’ve been using an Apple iPhone for about the past four years now1. As much as I initially opposed the idea, Apple was correct in taking things like the SIM card and phone battery out of the hands of the user2. It’s a far superior user experience to design those out of the experience all together, in my opinion. That being said, if you’re going to force your user into awkward set-up necessities, this is about as painless a way to do it as possible. I can image some layered gadget packaging where each section the user opens, they are presented with the next step in setup or assembly (would work great for Ikea products, too!).
Now, as for instructing the user how to do anything on the phone: with a generous sized touch screen, there’s simply no reason why all of these instructions can’t just present themselves on the screen. My favorite apps on th the iPhone are those where the instructions appear as modal dialogs pointing to the most-used features. Add’l help can get included to, but the top two or three tools are called out as soon as the app launches, making any user almost instantly proficient.
So, as much as I like this concept, I’d much rather see all of this inside the box—er, phone—than in some bulky, physical thing that isn’t going to be with you at all times.
In short: I think the
manual for a smart phone should simply be one short sentence: Push the power button.
- Yes, this is the part where I start coming off as an Apple fan boy, but bear with me… it applies to any smartphone or other touch-screen device [↩]
- Sure, you can still get to the SIM card on an iPhone, but compared to any other phone, it holds virtually no data beyond the user’s account credentials or phone number. [↩]