Impact Technical Publications But we put it in the user guide! Why won't users read it?
This example, from the user guide for a digital video recorder (DVR), is similar to the "HDTV blues" example. The information is in the user guide, but users must know where to find it.

Let's play DVR usability testing. We are going to be the testers. You get to be the test subject.

You want to record from an external device. You have decided to connect the external device to the DVR with an S-video cable.


Which of the topics in the user guide will you read?

  1. Functional Overview: Rear Panel (page 11)

  2. Dubbing: Settings for an External Device (page 51)

  3. Both of them. I always check the entire table of contents before I connect anything.

  4. Neither of them. I hate user guides.

If your answer is 2 or 3, congratulations! The DVR will record from your external device.

If your answer is 1 or 4, you will be returning the DVR to the store because the S-VIDEO IN jack doesn't work.

You won't be alone. In product reviews on the web, many customers praised the DVR's performance and features but complained that they had to return the DVR because the S-VIDEO IN jack did not work. One customer returned three DVRs to the store. The salesperson was as baffled as the customer.

Why doesn't the S-VIDEO IN jack work?

Take a close look at steps 1-5 on page 51. The DVR has a "Video Input - E1 (Rear)" Setup menu. The DVR ships with the VIDEO IN jack active. Users must select the "S-Video In" option to activate the S-VIDEO IN jack on the rear panel of the DVR.

There are two morals to this story:

  • Put important information at all places where a user is likely to look for it. In this example, that means putting a note about the "Video Input - E1 (Rear)" Setup menu on page 11 under "10. S-VIDEO IN jack (E1)."

  • Conduct usability tests! Having done usability testing ourselves, we suspect that many users will plug in the S-video cable without reading the user guide. Putting a note about the "Video Input - E1 (Rear)" Setup menu on a sticker attached to the rear panel next to the S-VIDEO IN jack would solve that problem.

Go to next exhibit.

Return to The Psychics' Gallery.

DVR user guide, page 11

DVR user guide, page 51