Here in front of me sits my new printer. It’s been thoughtfully packaged, nicely designed, and by pressing a few buttons I can print and scan images wirelessly. But my purchasing experience has been tarnished with the discovery of a huge instruction manual, a soulless piece of design that’s completely at odds with the object it sits with. If my printer really is as “user friendly” as the box claims, why should I need a manual at all? Can you imagine a page of instructions at the beginning of a website? Of course not because websites have been thoughtfully designed to make them easy for us to navigate. Usability expert Don Norman insists “Manuals should be written before the product is designed. Make the manual simple and elegant, then have designers build it the way they have described it. Then we might actually get usable products and simple manuals.” Well put Mr Norman. Instruction manuals are a lazy apology from the designer for making the product too bloody complicated in the first place.
So for those of us who like to figure things out for ourselves check out www.machinarium.com. It’s a beautifully designed game with subtle pointers rather than instructions which make exploring it much more rewarding. Which means that I don’t have to print out pages of instructions from my new printer to play it. Which is a relief because Christ knows how I do that.