Reading Usable Help
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Gordon R. Meyer
Evolution of Roomba's Virtual Wall instructions
In the not too distant past, I was in love with the Roomba line of household cleaning robots. Over the course of buying several different models, I noticed an instructional evolution taking place, in regards to the on-device help for positioning their Virtual Walls. (A virtual wall uses IR to tell the robot to avoid a certain area.)
It's easy to imagine a narrative for the changing approach. The first model of virtual wall, shown on the left, did not have any built-in documentation. Customers probably weren't looking at the printed manual, so for the 2nd generation (middle) they added usage instructions. It's a beautiful diagram, but it's wordy and detailed. For the 3rd generation, the instructions are simplified and wordless, which allows the product to be sold and used worldwide. Notice too that they're now a part of the door, instead of being printed on the door, which saves a manufacturing step.