The nadir

Photo by Svanur Gabriele on

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in learning, digital transformation and local government.

I know how good they can be, and how people are doing amazing things with nil/no resource to create better things for everyone; their citizens, colleagues, peers and organisations.

The intersection between the three is a great place with people crafting some brilliant things.

And then I see something like this from Rob Miller:

This is from a 162 page user manual. Notwithstanding the user experience, what does it mean? I ‘know’ that people need to understand how to use tech but this is one of the worst examples of the ‘BMW braking system problem’.

The BMW braking system problem is how I describe helping people cross the road. In the 1970s we had the Green Cross Code man. We were told to Stop, Look, and Listen; there wasn’t a need to do any more. If the road was clear, we crossed.

What we’re seeing in the 162 page manual is the equivalent of instructing of people in how the BMW braking system works. You’ll likely never need to know how a BMW braking system works, but, on the occasion that you’re crossing the road and when you apply the Look instruction and see a BMW, though you’ll understand how the BMW braking system works so you can choose to cross the road.

Or not.

I’ve mentioned before about Awareness, Acquisition and Application; please think about them when you’re designing learning. People rarely want to look up how to learn how to do something – make sure they can look up how to do it. Everything else is dressing.

One thought on “The nadir

  1. A former ID / graphics colleague had a Post-It stuck to his monitor. It read something to the tune of: “If you need instructional text, then the design’s wrong”. I imagine similar might apply here.



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