A Beautiful User Guide or None At All

I started a mission to find some brilliantly designed user manuals. It’s a piece that is so often overlooked. Yet, this is a critical part of user experience for your product… a customer should, after all, be able to use the product that they purchased. Better yet, what if the user manual was something that inspired a greater level of loyalty and engagement from your customer?

One of the first articles I stumbled upon was about Steve Jobs. No surprise. Apple was the first company that I thought about when I started on this mission.  However, this article talks about the absence of a user manual. I didn’t realize it, but the iPad ships with no manual. Impressive: A high-tech, multi-function product designed with an interface intuitive enough that the user does not need a manual.

Ok… so maybe it’s a moot point. We don’t need better designed manuals, we need better designed products. Here’s a great (old) article about feature creep and pushing past that “Happy User Peak”.

That being said, I know there will still be a need for user manuals and guides, at least for a while. Well done videos are a great way to present some of this (See Apple examples). There are many web-based manuals and guides that are done well too (See a Mashable’s twitter Guide Book).  Interactive, multi-touch publishing for tablets will be a game changer in this area, mixing written instructions, animated diagrams and movies.

Now, back to my search for examples of well-designed printed user manuals.  I turned up this one… from the 1950’s.

From the original post: "You almost get the impression Olivetti decided to print a manual that people would actually want to keep and not throw away once they got used to their new typewriter. The whole thing could have been printed entirely in black, but pale greens, reds and turquoises pop up throughout, giving the manual a sense of luxury that elevates it from being just a utilitarian document."

And this one from Wario Ware (2007):

From the original post: "It’s laid out in part like a trashy tabloid, complete with a letter from the editor, and dramatic headline titles for each section. The entire thing is printed in full color as well, and the writing features some of the same dry humor which makes the game so fun to play."

Hopefully there are many more.  I just haven’t uncovered them yet.

The bottom line is that companies should treat their customers just as well as they treat their prospects… maybe even better.  The image below is too true too often (from another great article from the no-longer updated Creating Passionate Users blog).

References & Links:


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