We have a vacuum cleaner, as I’m sure you do. It’s quite a well-known brand with a purportedly heavy emphasis on product design. I hate it. I won’t list the myriad reasons why I hate it, because that would be beyond dull. I will mention one though, to illustrate the point of this post.

You have to take off the dust container to empty it, which as far as I’m concerned requires a degree in advanced engineering. There are two buttons to push with helpful arrows on them, which seem to want to work together but which fight with each other and act in opposite directions so that within a matter of moments you’re wanting to wrench it from the base and cast it over your garden wall.

Mrs D bought the vacuum cleaner, and loves it, naturally.

But my point is this: great, well designed products don’t need a manual. Manuals always make me hark back to the bad old days of IT, which are still here, where some smart alec would answer your ‘how do I’ question by telling you to ‘RTFM’, which stands for the profane version of ‘Read the Flipping Manual’.

I don’t want to read the manual. I shouldn’t need to read the manual. Apple have been producing great products since the i-Mac and before. I can remember getting two documents: one is a quick start guide where in 5 easy steps you can learn how to plug in your device and power it up, ready for use; the other is a manual that you only ever need to refer to if you have to troubleshoot or you want to learn some ninja inside moves.

Every product designer should be asking themselves this question: how can I make this product so easy to use the user can just switch it on and pick it up as they go? Try setting that challenge to the folk that produce TV remotes. You might as well lock them in and throw away the key.

Vacuum cleaners can be funny though. Here’s the funniest joke from 2014’s Edinburgh Fringe.

 

 

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