Reading Usable Help
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Gordon R. Meyer
How assistants put us out of business
For years now, computers have included "setup assistants" or "wizards" that walk users through configuration and setup steps. But a lot of products are computerized today, and these documentation-free approaches are spreading like wildfire. While instructional designers have a role in creating interview-style automations, they're not typically created by the documentation department. In fact, it's usually easy to spot when the assistant and manual have been done by different teams.
For example, see Wired's review of a Denon stereo. It's an entirely positive review except for the part about the printed instructions being incomprehensible, and the advice to avoid them and use the built-in assistant instead. Next time this product gets revised, you can bet that Denon will strongly consider eliminating the printed documentation.