In the last week, we have been working on a project or two that involves some electrical devices and tools. Mostly what we learned is that the documentation that comes with many products has instructions in multiple languages all printed in type nearly too small to read without a magnifying glass and diagrams and details smaller than my little fingernail. Those diagrams and illustrations were all too small to actually provide the necessary useful and useable detail necessary for "how-to-do it".
Fortunately, we found most of the needed information in technical books we had which had larger full-color illustrations and detailed text. Another damned learning experience.
Problems with documentation are just part of the problem. Look at electronic products like radios, TV remotes, car controls, etc. and often you will find small light gray type on only slightly darker gray plastic that is barely readable in good light let alone what is often the ambient light for such products. An engineer friend who worked in the aviation industry said that they tested such designs in simulators to make sure accurate control and data reading was unambigous and easy. Testing products with people totally unfamiliar with them might be a good idea. If engineers and others intimately familiar with how the product is supposed to work, determine the interface and the documentation, it will seem as if it is working no matter how rotten the interface or the documention. They know what it is supposed to do.
I suspect some of the problems with product documentation result because the products and documentation are produced in China and shaving a half-inch off the size of a documentation paper may save a few dollars even if it also makes the product unuseable by a significant percentage of ultimate consumer purchases.
Now to get into bright sunshine with magnifying glasses and study the documentation and crappy device interface on a battery backup/surge protector for computers and other electronics.
**** Stay tuned if you can see the controls--- Doug Wiken