Science and technology: operating instructions find their way onto the Internet

Online instruction manuals

The new smartphone is here? Detailed operating instructions can only be found – if any – on the Internet. Photo: Christine Klose / dpa-tmn

(Photo: dpa)

Two-thirds of respondents viewed the products’ lack of ease of use as an obstacle, and 58 percent saw complex operating instructions as an obstacle.

“We know three types of clients when it comes to dealing with operating instructions,” says Sebastian Kloss, Bitkom’s Division Director. “People who are always looking when they buy a new product. Those who look only when they don’t know what to do next. And the third type who immediately throws out the instructions without seeing it.” It is estimated that half of electronic product users belong to the latter group.

Information and instructions from the network

“That may have something to do with the products,” says Kloss. “Especially with IT and entertainment electronics, there is a clear navigation menu in which the devices can be put on and running instantly. For many users, this makes paper operating instructions unnecessary.”

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Today, customers can use a number of modern communication channels to obtain the information they want, such as CD, QR code, video, link, or augmented reality. “This also allows manufacturers to constantly update operating instructions, and thus keep them updated,” says Kloss. Customer can use virtual tutorials for troubleshooting. And he is sure that “sending operating and maintenance instructions from the Internet directly to the machine is the future”.

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Basically every electronic product includes a how-to guide, otherwise it is not complete. “It is important that usage information is accessible to the consumer without barriers,” says Francisco Capodevilla of the VDE. In the event that there are instructions in the device’s memory for the product to be described, the product itself guarantees free access. However, before that, you must first turn it on or create Internet access – with all the difficulties and risks that may arise from it. “This is why the printed version of the Instructions for Use is always essential for consumer products.”

Brochures are getting thicker and thicker

“Today, the paper model is mostly limited to the most necessary explanations,” says Ralph Dickman, press spokesperson for Tüv Rheinland. This is also due to the fact that manufacturers offer devices in many countries and therefore in many national languages. This alone makes brochures or flyers thicker and thicker.

But the printed instructions won’t go away. “Even if more and more information is available on the Internet, easy navigation in the menu cannot replace the operating instructions. Because it contains much more than just turning on the device,” Dickman says. Safety tips and care instructions are very important so that the product can do its job well for a long time.

Clear, understandable and understandable

Basically, good operating instructions should be clear, comprehensible, understandable and in German so that unintended errors, misuse, or even dangerous situations do not arise, says Dickman. It usually starts with technical data as well as general safety and usage instructions. This is followed by initial device start-up and setup.

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Then it moves to different performance levels. Finally, typical errors are described and possible solutions presented. Finally, there is a note about correct disposal.

If the instruction manual is missing or unusable, this is a cause for complaint. Since the operating instructions are part of the product, it represents a defect in the product if it is incorrect, incomprehensible, or not listed in the local language. Then the buyer can request to return the work. “In this case, the manufacturer has the option to introduce a more understandable variant,” says Sebastian Kloss.

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