Many product manufacturers or suppliers often encounter a very common issue with their customers: less and less users read manuals nowadays. It might not be such a big issue with small consumer appliances, such as hair dryer or leaf blower. However, it could be problematic if user manuals contain most of the important or technical information that users need to know how to use a product properly and safely.
There are many reasons that people don’t like to read user manuals. Regardless whether the reason is legitimate or unreasonable, it is the reality most manufacturers must deal with. So, what are the reasons that people don’t read manuals?
1. Manuals Are Boring and Hard to Understand
Manuals are often designed to include highly technical information or lots of jargon. They are often written from the engineers’ perspectives, not average users’ perspectives. User manuals are also designed to include all kinds of information to ‘cover all bases’, which are not directly related to instructions for use and make the manuals very long. Therefore, manuals are often hard to understand, very tedious and boring to read. Another inherent challenge with manuals is that it is hard to explain 3D concepts in a 2D way, i.e. text and images.
2. People Don’t Have Time
Since reading manuals is tedious, it is a hassle to be avoided by people. If users are busy, it is an obvious decision for them to skip reading manuals. The consequence of skipping the properly learning process is user error, which leads to inefficient usage, limited understanding of the functionalities, and potentially harmful user habits. All of these could prevent users from reaching their ultimate goals using the products or tools properly, efficiently and safely.
3. People Are Lazy
Ok, most people are lazy. Honestly, even when we have the time, we won’t bother with it if it takes too much time and effort. Most people are like that. It is understandable. If there is no strong motivation, people’s behaviors are not going to change.
4. People Are Overly Confident
Some users could be overly confident with a new product/tool. Advanced users tend to skip over reading manuals because they think they already know what to do or what to expect. So they tend to not read manuals and jump in using the products right away, which could have significant negative consequences.
5. People Prefer Alternatives
Yes, there are alternative ways other than user manuals to learn how to use a product. People would rather rely on common sense, or somebody else telling us what to do, or watching a video, even calling the help line, etc. They would go to whatever tools there might be available to figure it out, so long as they don’t need to read user manuals.
The result of not reading manuals might not be serious if we are talking about small consumer products that are relatively simple. The consequence of not going through proper training is serious for highly complex and expensive products.
- Lost productivity due to users’ unfamiliarity with product features and operation procedures.
- Extra costs associated with customer support and service from manufacturers needed
- Safety issues caused by improper usage of the product, could lead to serious accidents and/or injuries.
The solution here is not necessarily forcing people to read user manuals. Manufacturers should spend more time finding alternative ways to replace the boring user manuals that nobody wants to read.
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