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User manuals (lack of)

Postby ef37a » Tue Jun 30, 2020 5:41 am

About a year ago I purchased a wi fi camera. The picture quality was excellent but the support was dreadful. I eventually got a refund from Amazon even though the product was a month or so out of warranty (I suspect I was not the only one with a problem and they were cutting losses and hassle?)

Then I saw an outside camera made by "Wyze" looked just the bizz so I then looked for an online .pdf manual. Much searching proved futile as did looking for an email support address. I reluctantly filled in one of those b'std forms. You know the sort of thing. Get a tiny bit wrong and it goes ape ***t at you, all red *****s and "You MUST enter the required fields!" Sorry!

Got a ticket reply, another robot. Replied to that. This morning I got a very pleasant letter from a lady named Janette who informed me that they don't 'do' .pdf manuals..."All support is dealt with 'here' (link) and is catagorized for specific problems" Yeah! Been there, never the one 'I' want.

I have replied, politely, that I am 'Old School' tech and much of the pleasure of buying new kit is the reading of the manual. I have said, "maybe your business model suits YOU but I shall pass."

I tend to judge companies BY their user manuals and especially how hard I have to work to find one. Not to have one at all is a big turnoff for me.

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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby ConcertinaChap » Tue Jun 30, 2020 6:09 am

Agree completely. Doesn't sound at all a Wyze idea. Looking out the manual is a pretty fundamental part of the due diligence I do when I buy stuff.

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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby CS70 » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:06 am

It's really - alas - an age thing. We come from days where a manual was a given. That lasted until the internet established itself for good as a mass phenomenon. A lot of younger people grown up in the 2000s do not read nor expect manuals: they expect informational websites, and - since they are used not to find what they are looking for there - they rely on asking peers on social media.

SOS is not much affected (I suspect, due to the average age of the forumites) but if you head in any audio-related social media group you'll find people asking absolutely basic questions, something that a look at the (often existing) manual would solve in a second. And yet they choose to ask - even in situations which seem to be somewhat urgent for them.

It's also a sign of the growing social divide between people who knows how to learn and understand stuff, and people who lacks the basic mechanisms and experience in learning stuff quickly and efficiently.

The lack of manuals by design is only a minor consequence: politicians have been exploiting that in the last few years big time and it won't stop there..
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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby ef37a » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:30 am

What you say is mostly correct CS70 except for the age thing!

People have NEVER read user manuals* I did forty years as TV/radio/VCR service tech and customers would rather put in a 'service call' than consult the manual and in those days the manuals were a joy to behold! A4 stapled copy and very detailed (part of course of the problem)

I don't care if the vast majority of the young bloods get their info from Faceblob or similar. Justified or not I consider a company not worth MY time if they cannot take THEIR time to write a decent book about their product. I understand that a printed A4 copy with every device is both costly and wasteful since 99% will sit in their plastic sleeve unopened forever but that does not excuse the provision of a .pdf. In any case, how can the company personnel REALLY know how their product works and all its foibles and settings if they don't 'do the knowledge' ?

I also hold companies in contempt that do not show a prominent email contact address. What are they trying to hide or avoid?

There orta be a LAW!

*Forgot! (why I need the books you see!) Way back when Japan was king of consumer electronics the manuals were dreadful translations and caused as much merriment as frustration. Sadly, this lack of care was evident in the handbook I got with the wi fi camera I mentioned and the email support staff were very willing but again, their grasp of English made life very difficult, aided I am sure by my huge lack of knowledge regarding networking.

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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby N i g e l » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:50 am

of the companies that do provide manuals, it annoys me that they produce them in portrait mode instead of landscape, as Im going to be reading the pdf version on a PC screen.
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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby ef37a » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:14 am

N i g e l wrote:of the companies that do provide manuals, it annoys me that they produce them in portrait mode instead of landscape, as Im going to be reading the pdf version on a PC screen.

Oh! I want it as the book would be and I only have to rotate things like signal flow diagrams*..WHICH I might say are getting rarer year by year. Behringer were very good with these until a couple of years ago, now nothing. Even Soundcraft have dropped block diagrams. And, 'signal voltage diagram'? Yer having a giraffe! (Yamaha always did them, must check)

*The annoying thing is, such a diagram MUST exist somewhere in the design database.

Nah, the book for the MG10XU is just a paltry two sheets. No signal flow or voltage diagram. But at least you can get something!

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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:26 am

Creating a user manual -- even a PDF online version -- is a real tangible expense and requires a technically educated author/draughtsman, making it an even more expensive and challenging project.

Given the increasing technical illiteracy of the general public, creating a decent manual that few will read and even fewer will understand is frequently deemed an unnecessary expense by the accountants. And so we just get a basic 'this is how you plug it in and what the knobs do' type of flimsy... and then forums like this one are full of novices asking seniors how to make it work properly...
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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby desmond » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:36 am

The other thing of course is that so much modern technology involves rapidly updating software, so anything that gets "printed" (either physically or virtually) generally has a useable lifespan measured in minutes...

(Online documentation is extremely useful in these cases.)

Plus, and this has always been the case, there seems to be a genuine manual-phobia - either it never crosses people's minds to look in the manual, or having to go to the manual is seen as a failure of the user to be able to figure something out on their own, and is also seen as a cognitive load as you have to go to some effort to examine, find, extract and interpret the manual, especially when most people typically want tutorial type information ("how do I achieve this?") whereas most manuals are in the form of references ("This is what this button does").

(Although there is a further class of laziness which equates a bit of google searching, and parsing the information found to an overwhelmingly cognitive load, so people often now bypass that step and want someone else to spend their time explaining (spoon-feeding) the exact solution for their issue.)

I know everyone's distracted and has a million things to do, but the ability to self-educate is extremely important, imo.
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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:48 am

desmond wrote:...so people often now bypass that step and want someone else to spend their time explaining (spoon-feeding) the exact solution for their issue.

This one always amuses me. We have new members who go through the whole process of signing up to the SOS forums just to post one long involved question which, 9 times out of ten, could have been solved by a small amount of common sense and 20 seconds of googling...

Mind you... that also applies to some of our long standing forum members too... :lol:
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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby ef37a » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:52 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Creating a user manual -- even a PDF online version -- is a real tangible expense and requires a technically educated author/draughtsman, making it an even more expensive and challenging project.

Given the increasing technical illiteracy of the general public, creating a decent manual that few will read and even fewer will understand is frequently deemed an unnecessary expense by the accountants. And so we just get a basic 'this is how you plug it in and what the knobs do' type of flimsy... and then forums like this one are full of novices asking seniors how to make it work properly...

You have hit the nail on its bonce Hugh. The bean counters get everything pared to the bone such as components only rated jeeeust to working conditions with no capacity to survive the failure of associated parts. No care taken to ensure equipment can work to specification at both ends of the allowable mains voltage tolerance (or even survive the top one!) The punter is of course as much part of the blame, always chasing the last quid off. There is sensible saving, some retailers are greedy but trying for the last 'P' is driving down quality and service.

So, my touchstone is the user manual. Don't do one? Don't want your product.

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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby ef37a » Tue Jun 30, 2020 11:00 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
desmond wrote:...so people often now bypass that step and want someone else to spend their time explaining (spoon-feeding) the exact solution for their issue.

This one always amuses me. We have new members who go through the whole process of signing up to the SOS forums just to post one long involved question which, 9 times out of ten, could have been solved by a small amount of common sense and 20 seconds of googling...

Mind you... that also applies to some of our long standing forum members too... :lol:
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I agree to a large extent Hugh but you might consider it a compliment because people have come to mistrust internet answers. I am constantly pointing people your way!

WRT the writing of a user manual and its cost to the company? How in Hades did it get made if nobody knows how the fekker works?

I have seen first hand, as I am sure have you, the enormous amount of time and testing that goes into the design of quite simple electronic devices. Then you get prototypes back ('s all made in China!) Then pre prod models for checking. De bugging!!
Surely in all this frenzied effort someone could collate the information and turn it into a book? Well, they do, worked there.

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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby desmond » Tue Jun 30, 2020 11:28 am

ef37a wrote:I agree to a large extent Hugh but you might consider it a compliment because people have come to mistrust internet answers

This is a great problem of modern times - we have so much available information, but people are often finding it difficult to qualify it.

As well as hopefully platform technological/social solutions, it's also a skill that needs to be learned.

I'm often asked by family/friends etc such things like "Does this look like a legit online shopping site?", "Is this email telling me my netflix subscription/car tax/whatever has been terminated and to renew now legit" etc, that I feel obligated in those situations to pass on some handy tips to help people recognise important signifiers to evaluate these things for themselves (but also, if in doubt, *ask me* please.)

But it will be an increasing problem going forward that we're going to have to come up with ways to deal with and improve, as part of learning how these pervasive large-scale communication technologies affect our society...

ef37a wrote:How in Hades did it get made if nobody knows how the fekker works?

There's a traditional joke around Apple Keynote days that "This is when all those Apple engineers find out what they've been working on for the last year..." :lol:
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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jun 30, 2020 11:37 am

ef37a wrote:WRT the writing of a user manual and its cost to the company? How in Hades did it get made if nobody knows how the fekker works?

I'm sure lots of people within the company knows how it works and what it is designed to do. But translating that into a decent user manual requires both time and skill, and therefore real physical costs -- and there's a good chance that it will need updating regularly too, as Desmond pointed out, so that's a potential ongoing expense.

Okay, the costs for one manual may not be that much on their own, perhaps, but in small companies it can still be an issue, and if they can find a way of not employing that person, or not commissioning a freelancer, so much the better!
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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby ef37a » Tue Jun 30, 2020 11:55 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
ef37a wrote:WRT the writing of a user manual and its cost to the company? How in Hades did it get made if nobody knows how the fekker works?

I'm sure lots of people within the company knows how it works and what it is designed to do. But translating that into a decent user manual requires both time and skill, and therefore real physical costs -- and there's a good chance that it will need updating regularly too, as Desmond pointed out, so that's a potential ongoing expense.

Okay, the costs for one manual may not be that much on their own, perhaps, but in small companies it can still be an issue, and if they can find a way of not employing that person, or not commissioning a freelancer, so much the better!

Yes Hugh but people must see this as bad policy and not buy from them (another word for it is "greed") The company I worked for are not at all large. I was #7 on the pay role 10 or so ago and they have not become that much bigger. Nevertheless they managed to produce well written, glossy handbooks ok, A5 I grant you but also free for anyone to download (and I bet they would post you one out if you wanted one)

Modern times: Some once said. "It is almost always possible for someone to make something a little cheaper and a little worse".

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Re: User manuals (lack of)

Postby MOF » Tue Jun 30, 2020 12:14 pm

Surely a manual is needed internally to educate the people that are on ‘technical support’. So unless that isn’t the case then there’s no reason why a pdf can’t be made available, ditto for schematics.
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