Thread February 14, 2015 editorial: comments
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The “WTF?” Product Manual
I had two separate instances recently where I was working with complex new plug-ins and discovered that their product manuals left out important information. For both products I had do a lot of detective work just to understand how to use some key features. To this I say, “WTF?”
C’mon. If you’re going to sell a product to the public, it should have thorough enough documentation that it doesn’t leave users scratching their heads about important aspects of the GUI. I know that some software companies are under pressure to release titles quickly, but it should be incumbent upon them to make sure the manual is comprehensive.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this isn’t just a problem with software. There are plenty of hardware units with subpar manuals, too. Have you ever gotten one that offers only a few sketchy instructions about the unit and then goes on to repeat that same inadequate information in 10 different languages? Such manuals will often say “For more information, visit our website,” but when you get there, all you usually find is marketing babble.
Speaking of translated material, the manuals for products originally produced in non-English-speaking countries often suffer from bad translations, which makes them harder to understand. I suspect that it often that comes down to economics, where the company doesn’t spend enough to get a quality translation, and get the document proofread and edited once it’s in English. To be fair, many large music manufacturers based overseas have improved their manual translations a lot over the last 10 years of so.
Getting back to those two plug-ins with subpar manuals that I mentioned at the top, I was pondering what would make a manufacturer release substandard documentation for a new and complex product? All I could come up with was that perhaps the folks writing the manual were so deeply involved in the product’s development that they’d lost all perspective and assumed way too much knowledge on the part of the customer. I’d like to believe that was the case, rather than that they were just cutting corners.
Whatever the causes may be, I urge manufacturers to please make sure their documentation or online help is up to snuff before releasing a new product.
What kinds of problems have you run into with product manuals?
Have a great week.
U.S. Editor, Audiofanzine
What did I do? I went back to digging into my Radikal Technologies Spectralis.
"Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding." Proverbs 2:2-3
Have you ever gotten one that offers only a few sketchy instructions about the unit and then goes on to repeat that same inadequate information in 10 different languages?
Drives me NUTS when this happens! And it's not just in music production-related products.....
All I could come up with was that perhaps the folks writing the manual were so deeply involved in the product’s development that they’d lost all perspective and assumed way too much knowledge on the part of the customer.
Typical engineer's error. Everything they work hard on producing, they do based on what they find to be intuitive and, at times, common sensical. It's hard for them to get out of their own heads!
Waves, while not typically my favorite plug-in developers, write fantastic user manuals IMHO. They go through every single button on their plug-ins and explain it in several different ways. Sometimes it sounds too technical, but at the very least it's always an exhaustive, and usually a comprehensive manual
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