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Inferior instructions
Jan. 8, 2021
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by Ivan Raconteur

I have acquired two new products in the past week. In both cases my initial excitement about the items has quickly changed to frustration, and then to irritation.

I might spend hours researching an item to find a model that will fit my needs, only to find that I am unable set it up because the manufacturer has printed the instructions in a font so tiny it is barely visible to the naked eye.

This represents a dramatic change.

The marketing materials are printed in lavish large fonts with plenty of contrast and white space so potential customers have no difficulty understanding the message the company is trying to convey.

In addition to the clear, easy-to-read text, they might include informative graphics and even videos.

Then, as soon as one clicks the “place order’ button, it is as if the company decides that they have the money, so there is no further need to pay any attention to the customer’s needs.

So, they provide these pathetic excuses for instructions that are legible only by using a high-powered microscope.

It’s a marvel they are even able to print anything that small.

In the case of the first item I was setting up, the company provided the option to download instructions to my phone instead of trying to read the paper copy.

I thought this was a great idea, since it would allow me to zoom in on the type so I could actually read it.

That was far too optimistic. Although I had no trouble downloading the instructions, I was not able to zoom in.

Furthermore, they were still using a very small font.

This made no sense to me. With digital instructions, the company incurred no printing costs, so there is no reason not to make the text as big as necessary.

On one screen, most of the area was white space, surrounding what looked like two grey lines in the middle. Those were actually lines of text, but I still don’t know what they said.

This seems consistent with the rest of their evil plan.

As I was going through the process of setting up a user account and pairing the device with my phone, the company sent me access codes, one via text, and another via email. I was required to enter these temporary access codes to prove I was who I said I was.

It would have helped if I could have actually read the numbers. I ended up having to guess, based on the general shape of the numbers. Apparently I guessed right, because I was able to finish the setup.

The next item was one of those fitness tracker watches. I decided I need to increase my activity.

One of the first activities I contemplated was hurling the watch out the nearest window, because the instructions were apparently intended to be a secret between the manufacturer and his printer.

I found it an interesting contrast. The numbers on the face of the watch were about 48-point font, but the instructions to tell me how to set it up were about 4-point font.

I gave up for now, so in effect, I have a very complex device that is doing nothing more than keeping the time and date. Anything beyond that is a mystery.

Printing is, at its core, a communication tool. If it is worth writing something down, it is worth making it big enough so the customer, or target audience, can actually read it.

My recent experiences could have been positive ones, and could have converted me to a supporter of the company’s products. Instead, all they did was convince me that they really don’t care about their customers after the sale.

The sad thing is, as far as I can tell, these are good and useful products. Too bad the geniuses that are selling them aren’t as smart as their products.


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