Which product instructions are the most difficult to use and how can brand owners improve them?
Which product instructions are the
most difficult to use and how can
brand owners improve them?
Craig Thatcher, Director Userview®, reveals research results
15% said that they would. 34% of people All figures are percentages in this report.
Userview® regularly undertakes research
into user attitudes to instructions. For this said they would not make a return, whilst
46% said they weren’t sure.
study we asked how important instructions
were to their enjoyment and use of a
product. What did they find most difficult and Complaints about instructions revolve
around the standard of diagrams and the
in which product groups did they have the
worst experience? We also asked them associated written instruction. Individual
respondents’ comments indicate that the
whether they would return a product
because of poor instructions and for their balance of words to pictures was also
suggestions for making them easier to use. relevant to their use. There is also
recognition that other factors get in the way
Poor instructions were most frequently found of good instructions including layout, poor
translations, too many languages, too much
with complex products where a relatively
high degree of application and technical jargon and too many words.
understanding was required by the user.
When asked what would make product
Lighting, flat pack furniture and high tech
items featured prominently and this was instructions easier to use there was a
recurring theme that can be summed up with
confirmed by the list of manufacturers and
product groups that were mentioned by the words - clear, concise, straightforward,
respondents as having poor instructions. simple and step by step.
The overwhelming majority (67%)
recognised that good instructions were It seems obvious, but users felt that
instructions and products should be
important to their enjoyment of a product.
designed from the user’s perspective and
Whilst nearly everyone said they recognised not the manufacture.
the importance of instructions, they were
more reticent about whether they would ‘Some instructions are just not thought
through from the user’s point of view’
return an item if it had poor instructions.
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In what categories have you come
across poor product instructions?
A significant percentage of people have
experienced poor instructions in lighting and
flat pack furniture.
Flat pack furniture
Video cassette recorders
Child car seats
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What did you find difficult about the
The most mentioned problems with
instructions are around the diagrams and the
written instructions and how they work with
Could not understand diagrams/photos
Unclear written instructions (do not make sense)
Poorly written instructions (language used is poor)
Could not match words to diagrams/photos
Too many other languages
Instructions too difficult/too long
Too technical or jargon
Too long winded or too detailed
Did not feature item bought
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Would you return a product How important are good
because of poor instructions? instructions to your enjoyment and
use of a product?
15% of people would return a product. Many No-one thought that good instructions were
would not or are not sure whether to return unimportant. Over 95% said that they were
an item. What effect is this having on their quite, increasingly or vitally important.
‘out-of-box’ experience? People obviously value instructions as part
of the product experience.
Yes Of little importance
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What are the worst instructions
you have ever experienced?
A spread of technical consumer brands were Product groups most frequently mentioned
noticeable by their presence including; LG, included the following:
Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Hitachi,
Apple and Sony. Brands most frequently Furniture 11
mentioned included the following: Technical* 9
* Includes TVs, VCRs, mobile phones & cameras
Specific issues with the worst instructions
Respondents were also asked to specify the
problem they came across in these ‘worst’
Hitachi 2 instructions. They fell broadly into the
Product groups that caused problems Quality of diagrams 6
Respondents were asked about product Could not follow instructions 5
groups with which they had experienced
Instructions too long or complex 4
problems with the instructions. The most
Instructions were not for product bought 3
notable sector was furniture, quickly followed
Just pictures - no words 2
by an array of technical household items
Poorly written 2
such as televisions, VCRs, cameras, mobile
phones, iPods and lighting.
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What can make product
instructions easier to use?
Similar suggestions emerged from the
respondents - clear, concise, straightforward
and step by step. Respondents desire for
clarity and ease of use is evident.
Clear, concise instructions 9
Clearer diagrams 7
Simple, short steps/logical progression 5
More pictures/illustrations/photos 3
Assume a minimum of user knowledge/more user friendly 2
Some suggestions from respondents
‘Simple, short steps. Not long winded ‘Too often badly translated to English.
instructions. Clear diagrams and photos’ Printing ridiculously small for the eyes of
anyone over 25! Often technical terms used
‘Generally, (instructions should be) more when one approaches a job from a non-
user friendly. Not everyone is fully technical perspective’
experienced with the product’
‘Sometimes the quality is so poor (cheap
print etc) you don’t trust them’
‘Clear diagrams and clear identification of
parts with simple instructions’ ‘Plain English would be nice!’
Base is 86 responses
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Gender spilt 70% male, 30% female
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