Stop Telling People to Read the Manual

Online, a common reply to a person asking a question is “RTFM” (“read the f@$%ing manual). Saying RTFM is not only not very helpful, but is also detrimental to product improvement.In this video, Tony & Chelsea Northrup talk about the term RTFM and how blaming the user for every error hinders photography technology. Their point is that it has kept dedicated cameras from competing with camera phones because more people should be telling the camera manufacturers to change their design.Tony and Chelsea’s video’s central premise is that the reason many people ask questions is because the product or feature is not intuitive. Sure, some things require some knowledge, but many others could be addressed in a design change of either the camera firmware or hardware.Having written manuals, help files, and knowledgebase articles, I can attest to the fact that they are sometimes needed. However, far too many times, a simple understanding problem could be averted with a more intuitive design when it comes to software and hardware.Many people in the community like to tell people to RTFM when sometimes that person already has. Have you read some of these manuals? I have. I write reviews for a gadget site, and I read a lot of manuals. They range from very nice to absolute garbage. Often, they’re written in broken English, leaving me wondering what they are actually saying.I recently received a multifunction flashlight that required me to read the manual because it only had one button. Press, double press, triple press, press and hold, press and hold for four seconds: it was maddening. Including a second button in the design would have made it much easier to operate. The point is that I shouldn’t have to read a manual; the product should be easy enough to figure out just by using it.

%d bloggers like this: