With the recent addition of e-books to our library offerings, we have created some simplified instructions on how to download an e-book. We have created similar such sheets many times before, to help our library users to help themselves with various library services.
The instructions are quick and easy, but don’t take into account any difficulties that may occur through the process. We can’t do that, because the document would become unwieldy, we could lose our audience, or they still wouldn’t answer every deviation from the norm which may occur. And they may, because of different Internet connections, different devices, different operating systems, etc.
So we like to keep our instructions quick and easy and deal with the exceptions as they arise.
However, I saw some simple instructions recently, which were read by someone, who then went above and beyond what the instructions directed. A man before us in the queue for the automated car wash, read the instructions several times. The instructions said to use the brush and soap provided to clean wheels and any particularly bad marks eg. bird poop, on the car, whilst waiting your turn to enter the car wash. We watched in amazement, as after reading for some time, he proceeded to thoroughly wash his car manually with the brush and soap provided, before going through the car wash, which did it all again.
Why? Was English not his first language, so it wasn’t as clear to him as it was to me? Did he misunderstand and thought he was doing what he was instructed? Or didn’t he believe what he was being instructed and so took it further?
Creating help-sheets has just gotten more complicated, as not everyone is coming from the same foundation. After this little experience and some more consideration, I will be taking the testing of my instructions further afield, before I am confident that I have it a product that is going to be able to help the widest audience possible.