Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 6, 201410:07 PM

Where Is The User Manual?

How does that coffee machine work?

I'm not a big coffee drinker. Too much caffeine does not play well with my biology. I'm anxious enough. A heavy does of it, and I'm spinning like a top, I get a headache and it's all regret. Still, occasionally, I like a cafe au lait (who doesn't?). Tasty. We've had the same coffee machine in our office at Twist Image for as long as I can remember. I walk by it multiple times a day. There are only a handful of buttons on it. I have no idea what those buttons mean or how to use it. I also recognize that we live in a world of coffee pods, where you simply slide these little tins into a coffee machine, hit a button and "poof," you have a French cafe style coffee pumped into your "Friday... my second favorite F Word" mug without any pretention. Still, I am clueless. It's just a bunch of buttons and sliders that I don't understand. I've tried. Sitting next to our coffee machine is a binder. On that binder, it says, "Coffee Machine User Manual." It's a binder. For a coffee machine.

How does your iPad work?

Do me a favor, take a look at the instruction manual for your iPad. How about the one for your iPhone? Your Android smartphone? Hmmm... no manual. That's interesting. Turn it on, slide to unlock it, touch and go. If you make a mistake, don't worry, you won't break the thing. It may take an extra second to figure it out, but you won't be punished by scolding hot water. Think on this for a moment: what is a more complex technology with a myriad more of functionality? That coffee machine or that iPad? That coffee machine user manual makes me laugh every time I see it. We talk about marketing, advertising and communication as a way to inform the public about the existence or nuances of the products and services that we sell, but marketing is so often left out of the actual development and experience, that what marketers are really left to do is to simply talk about something that may be overly complicated to explain and use.

Marketing includes design, usability and experience.

Don't forget about that. We often do forget about this or get lost in the erogenous zone of simplicity. Steve Jobs from Apple forced the world to look at design, usability, experience and marketing as one, holistic, thing. Business books, articles, case studies, documentaries, blog posts, annoying Instagram quote pictures deluge our eyes/brains with the idea of focusing on simplicity. I'd offer this thought: don't focus on simplicity. Simplicity is the outcome of bringing together the right people in the room that can get you to a specific point of resolution for your business. It's like trying to create something viral. Viral is a result of doing a lot of things brilliantly. Same with simplicity.

How to do away with the manual?

That specific point of resolution should be this: is it possible for your business to create something that does not require a manual or training? Ugh. Sucks to read that, doesn't it? Sucks to think about it. I know many business-to-business companies that will scoff at this notion, simply because this is how they ensure regular (and ongoing) revenue - through training, support and other value-added services. Fine, it may be impractical to completely do away with instruction manuals and trainings, but what if the real goal was to reduce it to its bare minimum? For my dollar, this is the highest form of marketing: creating something that is both needed and completely frictionless for the consumer (these are the things that consumers love to use and talk about). Find me a product that does this and was not accepted by a strong customer base, and I'll call you a liar (in the nicest way possible). Oh, and if you think it's one hundred percent impossible to drive your products and services to the point where instruction manuals are not needed, feel free to study (in-depth) some of the design thinking that the Apple team (and other folks - like the people at IDEO) are bringing to market. How they did it, might just surprise and inspire you and your teams. Lastly, remember that we have reached a very unique inflection point in time (and, it's something I discuss in a lot more detail in my second book, CTRL ALT Delete). We are finally at this amazing point in society when technology has removed the technology from technology. This stuff is intuitive, it does not require an instruction manual and it's accessible to all people - across demographics and psychographics. From the very young to the very old, to everyone in between. That is something to cherish, celebrate and integrate into all of our business. Always.

Dump the instruction manuals. That's the beginning phases of brilliant marketing.

By Mitch Joel

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