Thursday, December 09, 2004

Test Your Instructions With Users

I'm not in a good mood and there's a reason for it.

I just spent over 5 hours mucking around with installing a popular software program, actually an upgrade/renewal of a subscription to a service, and it should have taken less than 2 hours.

Why the extra 3 hours?

Somebody forgot or refused to test actual average typical users on the download instructions.

There are complex instructions, with many "if this occurs, it MAY BE due to (whatever), so you MAY TRY clicking on this, then this screen SHOULD appear, and then you should click on (whatever)"--totally worthless user guidance

The instructions were wrong most of the time. Certain functions to click on did NOT appear on the screens. Certain events did NOT occur as predicted in the instructions. Many things had no relation whatsoever to reality. Bogus.

Who approved these worthless yet complex instructions?

One thing's certain: the instructions were not field tested with users.

The software upgrade/renewal had to go through these phases:

1. Website Contact via Browser
2. Download
3. Install
4. Activate
5. Refresh via Computer Re-start
6. Operate (allow the software to scan and perform its functions)

I really like the company and their superior quality product.

I trust the company.

I will not even consider any competitive products.

But the Customer Service is rotten, horrible, ridiculous.

Another case of asinine Outshore Outsourcing strikes again.

First, the online instructions are a nightmarish mess.

Next, the toll free 800 Customer Service is manned by people seemingly in India or Pakistan, and while I love both of these countries and wish them no harm, the Customer Service representatives CANNOT CORRECTLY PRONOUNCE ENGLISH WORDS.

"Status" was garbled into STAY TUSS, sounding like SLAVE BUS or something. I explained that I pronounced it STA (A as in "AT" and "BACK") TUSS. I tried to be polite and patient. I feel sorry for these poor workers who are improperly trained by the ignorant American corporations.

I predict that Offshore Outsourcing is Corporate Suicide, and it will play a major role in the irreversible decline of the United States.

Offshore Outsourcing will enable China and the European Union to rise to global dominance, usurping the USA. Maybe we deserve to devolve into a third rate republic. Judging by American corporate customer service, I'd say we're shooting ourselves in the foot so we can hobble around like Oedipus, only to be blinded by the light of the truth.

You must TEST your instructions and procedures on actual representative users.

Too many companies seem to be throwing up instructions on their web sites, in manuals, in software, etc. without knowing if anyone outside their offices can figure out the damn things.

This is a user-hostile attitude.

This is Psycho Narcissistic Pseudo-Capitalism, based on selfish negligence.

My post on "Customer Service IS a Profit Center" needs to be heeded.

My post on "Dumbing Down vs. Simplicity" over at my Vaspers the Grate web usability blog needs to be heeded.

Common sense and decency are all it takes to understand that companies cannot merely assume that instructions are followable.

Just because the instructions make some degree of sense to the writer, designer, and manager does not mean that the market, user base, audience is going to be successful with them.

How many sales and repeat business are lost due to this crucial step in the implementation of a product?

Bosses should not be allowed to test anything.

Your only testers should be typical users, average customers, of your product. Test them with no coaching, no added explanations, just the raw instructions provided on the web site, or in the manual or software.

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