How did Apple and Google “kill” the product manual?

As a science and technology media editor, among the many friends and relatives around me, I am considered to be someone who knows more about smart products such as mobile phones. This also makes me the first person to "repair mobile phones and computers" at home.

Of course, the repairs mentioned here are not real repairs, but to solve the doubts of parents and elders about the use of mobile phones and other digital products.

The more frequent times, I also found a lot of interesting phenomena. When I switched from a feature phone to a smart phone, it was often difficult for the elders to get out of the logic of the one-to-one correspondence between buttons and functions in the past, and I needed more. I emphasized that I can remember the operation logic of the smartphone, and occasionally complain.

Why would I use such an expensive mobile phone without a manual?

Yes, as the elders said, there are fewer and fewer manuals in electronic products. Taking the iPhone as an example, the mobile phone is the first time the packaging box is opened, and the manuals are often placed between stickers and three packs of vouchers. The content is also very small.

▲ The instructions in the iPhone 12 package are already very thin

The packaging of Android phones is also similar. Most of the manuals are replacement instructions or button function instructions. The phone is placed first in the package. From this point of view, manufacturers still want users to turn on the phone directly instead of reading the manual.

Things always have two sides. The thinner and lighter manual reduces the frequency of people opening it, and it also encourages product managers to come up with better product designs, so that users can quickly get started without manuals.

What makes the manual disappear is one good design after another

The purpose of the manual is to serve as a tutorial to let users quickly understand the various functions of the product, reduce the cost of self-exploring learning, and let people really use the product.

In the early mobile phone manuals, most of the functions and buttons of the product were introduced in the form of icons. This is applicable in the era of feature phones. The one-to-one correspondence between the buttons and the function buttons will quickly become familiar to people. Mechanical buttons The intuitive feedback is also conducive to people's learning.

In the era of smart phones, the functions and images displayed on the screen have been greatly expanded. Pictures, buttons, and content are all gathered in a small screen. Its interactive mode is no longer a one-to-one correspondence with the buttons, but is ever-changing. of.

This requires people to understand the operation logic instead of relying on the one-to-one graphical operation of the manual. After all, if so many contents are explained one by one by the manual, the content level is too large and it is inconvenient for people to consult.

How to make people familiar with this ever-changing operating logic?

Apple's initial answer was a more concise and easy-to-use design and an imitation of the real world. The most direct is the quasi-materialized design. Most of the original iOS icons imitated elements of the real world.

For example, the camera icon uses a light-reflecting lens, and the weather software uses a radiant sun. These familiar elements can make people quickly associate and understand their functions.

Another thing that has been praised for a long time is the physical Home button. Even in this full-screen era, some users will miss it, and its influence can be seen.

Jobs once introduced the Home button at the iPhone conference: "It takes you home from wherever you are". A concise and direct explanation. No matter what level of the system is operating, just press the Home button. Will return to the homepage, back to the place where it started.

This design only needs to be experienced a few more times, from the elderly to the children can quickly understand its function, no matter which App you encounter a problem, you can return to the homepage.

In addition, the physical button structure of the Home button is also conducive to the formation of muscle memory, which is much more reliable than the intuitive tactile feedback formed by rote memorization. This is why mobile phones have entered the era of full screen. A large vibrating motor is placed in the internal space of the mobile phone.

No matter how similar the interactive animation is to the real world, it is not as intuitive as a single press or vibration.

There are also many designs on the market that use physical or mechanical structures to allow users to quickly get started, such as BenQ's screen hanging lights, which are one of the most acclaimed smart products in recent years.

▲ BenQ official introduction

In addition to the experience advantage brought by its own lighting, it has been mentioned many times that its control method-the knob, can be rotated to adjust the light, and the interactive feedback of what you see is what you get is easy to learn.

From feature phones to smart phones, Apple imitates the real world, including realistic elements and intuitive mechanical structures, so that people can quickly become familiar with it.

With the further growth of screens and entering the era of full screens, the pseudo-materialized design with more bright lines is not conducive to the presentation of the content itself. After people are already familiar with abstract mobile phone interaction, the pseudo-materialization can be turned into a more abstract but But it can highlight the flat design of the content.

▲The left is a pseudo-material design, the right is a flat design

The reason why parents and elders want the manual is that in addition to their lack of knowledge of new things, they also enter a flatter design language without experiencing the age of pseudo-materialization. It is inevitable that they are a little uncomfortable, and they need some time to be familiar and familiar. To understanding.

Manufacturers also gave corresponding solutions, that is, put the mobile phone function manual into the built-in App of the mobile phone system. Apple has a "reminder" function, and Huawei and other Android have special gameplay skills, which also play a certain guiding role. .

Not only affects users, but also affects tens of thousands of developers

From today’s point of view, smart phones have undoubtedly connected billions of consumers, and at the same time, they have created a huge market one after another. How to let consumers get a better experience in the entire ecology, instead of relying on a manual, it is Apple, What companies such as Google have to think outside of the product.

The first thing to solve this problem must be the operating system. Apple and Google have formulated a series of specifications for iOS and Android respectively. The purpose is to reduce the difficulty of user learning, and even the difficulty of developer adaptation.

This is especially important in the Android ecosystem. After all, Android has many custom systems and it is not easy to unify standards. The gesture changes in Android 10 were foresight. At that time, Google said that the development of gesture interaction was affected by Android mobile phone manufacturers. The development of the corresponding gesture operation function also hopes to unify the operation experience, after all, the different interaction logic of each manufacturer will affect the developers.

Another thing that reduces people’s learning costs is the design language. Apple’s flat design, Google’s Material Design, and even Microsoft’s fluent design all provide design specifications and interfaces as official design languages.

This not only allows developers to speed up efficiency, but also helps establish a unified form of UI and other aspects of each App, so that users can become familiar with it more quickly.

▲ Microsoft released design specifications for multiple platforms on the fluent design official website

Microsoft's Fluent design also gives cross-domain design references, and provides design specifications and references for software design in multiple fields such as iOS, Windows, Android, and web pages. It is hoped that Microsoft products can be used on any terminal. The same design language achieves a similar experience.

In products where the screen is the main interactive carrier, a unified design language can undoubtedly bring a consistent experience to people. Learn about tablets through mobile phones, and then learn about laptops through the two. The cost of learning has dropped again and again. This is also the new Mac The reason why the design language of the Big Sur system and iOS are becoming more and more consistent.

Of course, the design language is not a rigid specification, it is more to guide developers, and the app store is still one of the important ways for Apple and Google to control the ecological development.

For example, Apple has set a small strip at the bottom of the iPhone X. This part is the touch area of ​​the system function. If developers want to set interactive buttons in this part, it is often easy to conflict with the system's built-in gesture interaction. The design is also more difficult to pass the App Store review.

Similar to the upcoming privacy feature on iOS 14.5, which encourages developers to comply with the regulations, but also brings a unified experience to users. Failed to pass the review and the software cannot be put on the shelves are things that developers don't want to see. The app store is still one of the main ways for developers to acquire users, especially in the iOS ecosystem.

By designing languages, systems, and application stores, Apple and Google have influenced thousands of creators and used them to influence consumers, reduce the cost of use and learning, and reduce the difficulty of learning again and again. It makes the manual less and more unnecessary.

The loss of the manual also means the loss of the possibility of in-depth understanding of the product

Has the manual completely disappeared? Not at all. We can still see it in the packaging box and during the first launch of the App, but they are becoming simpler and less frequent.

While Apple and Google have reduced the cost of learning through simpler and easier-to-learn designs, people have also lost the possibility of in-depth exploration of products.

▲Picture from: CNET

When chatting with a friend who was a little older than me, he gave a point about the manual. In the past, home appliances often included manuals and related circuit diagrams. You only need some circuit knowledge to reserve. Circuit diagram repair.

I myself have a similar experience. When the old air conditioner at home broke down, students who are also majors in electronic information often thought of buying relevant circuit boards or wires from the Internet and repairing them through soldering circuits. After all, the instructions have detailed instructions and treatment. It's not too complicated.

Moreover, maintenance is not a niche demand for the use of mobile phones. As people’s replacement cycles continue to grow, there will only be more and more replacements with repairs. Many mobile phone manufacturers have turned to making money through services instead of solely relying on hardware sales. .

In fact, some people have seen this. The French government launched a repairable sub-system some time ago to assign repair scores to smartphones and indicate the difficulty of repairing products, prompting people to buy mobile phones that are less difficult to repair and last longer.

Samsung quickly made a change. Its approach was the manual. In order to improve the repairability of the product, shortly after the legal confirmation, Samsung equipped its Galaxy S21 Ultra with an online repair guide to facilitate people to repair the product by themselves.

I hope that in the future, such changes will be more and more.

The picture comes from: unsplash

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