You Don’t Need To Read The Instructions

Something only a man could write – at least that’s what many women might say. However I speak it from the heart. It’s the highest praise I could give to any product or service. That’s how I feel about the latest upgrade for WordPress: that’s Version 2.5. If you are blogging with WordPress and haven’t upgraded, then stop what you’re doing and go immediately to the upgrade.
WordPress Version 2.5
Although I tend to be enthusiastic, my normal British reserve means that I do not often give such glowing recommendations. However in this case I think the product itself is worth talking about and it provides a striking example on this subject of instructions. As Nick Usborne has written Site Visitors Don’t Read Instructions. It’s true that most websites do not have instructions provided. Nor should they need them. A product is well designed when you can use it to the full without reading the instructions.

In writing about this, I am only repeating what others have often mentioned. Garrett Dimon has suggested that Instructions not needed should be the watchword. Indeed he feels that If It Needs Instructions, It Doesn’t Work.

Simply put, the length of your instructional text is almost always inversely proportionate to the usability of your product. .. Whether it’s a VCR, iPod, code, web site, or web application, if the product’s interface needs extensive explanation, there’s probably something wrong.

Paul Markillie more recently has pushed the same idea in looking at the iPhone – again he encourages the theme, Instructions not needed. I think it’s a slogan that every designer of whatever stripe, industrial, graphic or Web, should always have clearly before them.

The latest WordPress upgrade certainly benefits from that thinking. You can now use the automatic upgrade process and it takes only minutes. You just follow the instructions on the screen. I did it three times in a row without incident. The real beauty comes in using this new version of WordPress. It’s all very intuitive. Things work as you guess they will work. It’s a supreme example of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Simon) principle.

Perhaps in the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that all the above is 99.9% true. One commenter on one of the blogs had two small typos. Where on earth is the Edit Comment link? I could not see it anywhere. So I checked through the instructions. I had missed one guiding principle in this upgrade. Basically if you want to change anything, you click on the thing to be changed. It then opens in Edit Mode. Is that intuitive? Well not to this writer until it was explained to me, and then it was blindingly obvious. So in case you might be like me, that’s the only instruction you will need.

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