I paid a visit to the Geek Squad yesterday. My objective: Acquire a 21st century desktop PC. With the help of Howard, I found exactly what I wanted. I left with all the bits, pieces and instructions required for self-installation. My self-confidence was bolstered by an expensive Masters in the design of instructional material. I write instructions professionally, so I should be able to read them, shouldn’t I?
I found two sets of instructions when I opened the boxes: One for the monitor and one for the tower. I began with the monitor, because if I couldn’t see what was going on when I set up the tower, I would fail at the task. [Scaffolding for success – a basic instructional design principle.]
Both sets of instructions were quick-start one-sheets, with step-by-step instructions depicted in diagrams and photos. Text was limited to essential clarifications. There were text rich booklets in both official languages for back up. I could not fail. I am Canadian. We invented visual icons like images of male and female bodies that identify public restrooms.
The monitor instructions had 5 steps – the 6th wasn’t numbered. That might have been a clue. I got to step four quickly. Step four was rather satisfying visually, because pushing the on button was depicted. The monitor on-switch, according to the photo/diagram, is located on the bottom right corner of the device. The diagram failed to instruct me to push or slide a finger over the bisected circle icon. So I tried doing both. Neither worked.
When first met with failure, instructed Mr. Kufluk, late of Ryerson’s Radio and Television Arts program, check that the device is plugged in. Did that. An encouraging green light glowed on the back of the monitor right beside the input jack for the power cord. Puffed with Kufluk pride, I pressed the on button again. Nada. Rien. Nothing.
Back to the quick-start instructions: Dense text in 25 different languages covered the back. Yes, you read that right – 25 different languages were tightly packed in the smallest font possible. I only had to read one and I should have been on the road to success. [Instructional design principle 2: there is no single style of learning, diversity is the norm.] I can read two. My self-confidence bordered on pride – the kind that goes before the fall.
I quote from the English instructions: “Press [diagram of on button icon] to turn on monitor.” I did, and when that didn’t work, I slid my finger across the icon, just in case the instructions had not been updated. [This need to slide came from a bad experience I had with a new monitor in a previous life. The emotional scars remain.] An expletive escaped.
Perhaps, I need to set the tower up, connect the two and then the monitor will glow like a campfire in mid-August. Did you know that you can’t complete a tower installation without an active monitor screen? [A competent instructional designer would create a pull-quote with that last sentence.] I was in the dark. I was blind. I couldn’t see the installation set-up instructions. I was irked.
I had invested in three years of telephone support when I purchased the equipment. So I dialled the help line. As a trained instructional designer I pride myself on providing clear and concise explanations when I am eliciting help. Perhaps they were too concise, because the Help Desk told me to take the monitor back to the store.
So I packed up the monitor pieces and returned to the point of origin. Howard and his Geek Squad compatriots asked me if I had pushed the on-button. [Steam issues from my ears.] “Yes,” I said curtly. “This button?” asked the white-shirted nerd who held my happiness in his hands. He pointed to a row of buttons hidden under the monitor, below the icons located on the front and in full view. Those buttons were not indicated in pictures, diagrams or text on the instructions that accompanied the monitor.
My hero plugged the monitor into the power and pushed that invisible and unidentified button. The monitor came to life as if he had pointed the finger of God at the thing.
The instructions should have come with a kid under 12.