Where are the Manuals – Minimalism and Procedure Manuals

Return to “Big Honkin Binder, the Director’s Cut

When you last bought an electronic device did you notice something was missing, the instruction manual?  Sure there was as ‘get started’ guide in about 15 languages but probably not an instruction booklet.  What happened to them?

Ask John (Jack) M. Carroll who has influenced packaging through his work evaluating computer manuals.  In an email interview, Carroll says:

“The basic idea of minimalist information is that people cannot effectively use comprehensive manuals; they make all sorts of errors. But people are outstanding at taking hints and reasoning.  Once you have that insight, the design of information is a totally different challenge!”

Popular Science and the Dark Side of Minimalims

For more on this (and its dark side), read the February 2015 edition of Popular Science: “Instructions Not Included; What does the disappearance of the common manual say about us?”.  Author Mark Svenvold writes:

‘Writing a manual from a minimalist point of view harnesses the reader’s active engagement.  Short, succinct manuals allow the user to quickly gain a sense of control and autonomy that inspires further learning.’ 

So how does minimalism impact a SharePoint wiki?  A minimalist procedure is the exact opposite of the “Big Honkin’ Binder”.  The wiki is highly searchable, a key element of minimalism.  In addition, a FAQ database separates the detail from the procedure.  Jack Carroll may have taken your stereo manual – but his ideas can also help you write a better procedure.

Alternatively read: Minimalism Beyond the Nurenberg Funnel, 2003, edited by John M. Carroll.

The Evolution of the Manual. Courtesy of Popular Science and Anderson Newton Design. Used with Permission, all rights reserved.