Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Living in the post intuitive world

In the beginning there was the instruction manual.  Initially we would buy an operating system such as Windows and would get a paperback bound book full of information telling us how to set it up, tweek it and of course it would have the Frequently Asked Questions.  I never have understood how anyone could second guess what the FAQs for a new product could be until they have launched it and people have actually asked some questions, but there you go.  And I certainly have never understood why the FAQ that runs something like 'how do I buy more of your fabulously crafted programs?' should make the list when the more obvious 'your software keeps crashing - what should I do?' rarely does.

After the bound paperback came the CD-ROM instruction manual.  Often way inferior to the documents they replaced, apparently because of the ease of hyperlinking and indexing which was supposed to make finding what you wanted quicker or easier, although of course you probably didn't know what you wanted or what it was called at that stage.  I think Apple were watching very closely at this point and decided there were two ways they could go if they weren't going to follow the herd.  They could revert to manuals, very un-techy and decidedly retrograde.  Or they could dispense with manuals altogether.

So Apple invested in developing products that didn't need a manual.  That takes a lot of work unless you're designing a very simple device.  Screwdrivers, for example, tend not to have instructions supplied, because they are familiar and quite intuitive to use.  Apple ushered in the intuitive world!

But an MP3 player, a mobile phone and eventually a new genre of equipment, a tablet computer, had to be developed, designed and manufactured in such a way that Apple didn't need to explain how they worked.  In the main it seems to have been a success.  I'm sure ours isn't the only household to open an Apple box or two, take out the techy gizmo inside, remove the USB cable provided and then systematically dismantle the box and packaging in an attempt to find the instructions, without success.

But eventually there is the experimental push of a button, a loading screen, perhaps a message that points you in the general direction.  Within half an hour music is being downloaded, Apps are being installed, photos transferred, emails sent.  All without a manual.

However it has seemed increasingly necessary to resort to the internet to get the unofficial description of what to do with these Apple devices.. Nuggets of good and indifferent gen litter Google and You Tube, advice pours out of Yahoo and even Apple now sees fit to post guidance on its website.

You see, the iPad of today is infinitely more complex than the iPod of five years ago.  And of course Apple are not an island, they allow other products onto their platforms which increases the complexity further.  And finally they have iOS 6, which is threatening the need for a formal instruction manual.

We have spent more time in the last month scouring the bulletin boards and websites for information just to make iOS6 work.  Simple tasks such as modifying the iTunes list, updating Apps, making space by removing  items have become hard work.  In fact, it's becoming increasingly hard to work out what to do just to keep the darned devices running smoothly.

So, perhaps it's time for Apple to rethink their stance on manuals.  Take us into the post intuitive world.  Or maybe rethink iOS again and get back to basics.


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