I recently had an abject lesson in how end user success is strongly correlated to a company’s success when I won a telescope from a holiday drawing. I’m not a telescope kind of person per se. I’ve never used a telescope and the extent of my constellation knowledge is Orion’s Belt and maybe the Big Dipper – or is it the Little Dipper? But after I got home from the party I was so excited to open the box and get it up and running.
Unfortunately, the telescope company didn’t particularly care whether I used the telescope or not. I say this because as soon as I opened the box, I saw a telescope in little pieces that needed assembly. Usually assembling things doesn’t freak me out, but when I took a look at what they called ‘instructions’ I was far from excited.
More doesn’t mean ‘better’
Included in the box was not one, but two instructional guides and a DVD. Let’s just say more is not always better. The documentation was like a puzzle where I had to hop from one PDF manual to another and then jump on my computer to download a CD which was full of more PDFs that were supposed to supplement the first two manuals. It was not fun, not pretty and by the time I had halfway assembled the telescope I just gave up. I put the pieces back in the box and went online to return it.
It’s called hypermedia and it’s been around 80 years now
This isn’t just about me getting frustrated when I was putting together a telescope, there is a much more important lesson here. We are now in the age of computers. And guess what–these complex machines allow me to connect to the Internet and interact with hypermedia (that’s what we now call interactive web pages), which Vannevar Bush designed way back in 1930 (see Memex) as a way to foster and accelerate learning and information transfer. Today we’ve taken the hypermedia concept even further by baking “social” into the fabric of the web. With this in mind, why would any company today feel it is appropriate to give it’s user a PDF- literally pictures of paper- and pretend it’s sufficient. Read more…