October 1, 2003

Baby instructions

I have already found of the many joys of being a parent. But I have also found some of the pain. The biggest so far is the inability of manufactures of infant products to put together slightly usable instructions. The failure is largest with car seats, which is one item all parents worry about as they want their child safe. We have had problems with three Graco instruction sets so far. Being the type of person I am I went to the Graco Web site to see if there were better instructions there or maybe even videos for each product. No, the only thing available were the failure of directions that come with the products.

Why are the instructions so terrible? The instructions have four problems: 1) Cover more than one product variation covered in the directions (car seat has 3-point and 5-point connector models covered in the directions): 2) Minimal words for instructions (words are used for warnings, which are not clearly explained how to avoid the problem related to the warning); 3) Multi-lingual directions and warnings intermingled (languages do not have their own sections of the instructions); 4) Visual instructions not clear (lack of labeling on the product to ease correlation of instructions and parts as well as no parts list).

Nearly all my neighbors and friends with children warned me of the horrors of the infant, baby, and child toy instructions. The information needing to be communicated is lost in whatever design or vetting process this information goes through. The folks at Lego and IKEA understand that the successful use of their products is their ease of understanding the instructions for assembly. Neither Lego nor IKEA's products are sold to protect the life of a child or to enhance the safety of a child, but they do understand the ability of the buyer to assemble the product correctly to achieve satisfaction. In Lego's case the instructions can be superfluous as the product can also be used as a medium for creativity, but in the case where the user wants to exactly replicate that is on the box cover the directions are perfect. The beauty of the instructions in the Lego and IKEA instances is that they are completely, or largely text free.

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