A Phone Book is a Book That Contains a Phone, Right?

Posted by admin on February 25th, 2012 filed in Technical Writing

Can you remember the first time you used a mobile phone? Did someone show you how to use it or did you figure it out yourself? Here’s an amusing idea for an idiot-proof smartphone manual:

I assume that this manual is an art project and not an existing product. These books would be quite expensive to produce, especially if they are used only once. The target group is “total newbs”, while the majority doesn’t really need instructions this detailed.

I rather take this as a lesson of good usability and creativity. Most people laugh/grin when they watch the video the first time (I heard a few giggles in the office) — it strikes a chord. Even if you don’t actually want your next phone to be packaged like that, you might think, “If that had been my first phone, it would have been fun to get started…”

It’s a good example of what good self-paced teaching methods could look like. Something similar to this book would (made out of a sturdier material) also work embedded in a workbench, where it shows you how to, dunno, build a radio, or other devices. It doesn’t even have to be a book. Picture a music player with an intro mode, where it plays its own intructions and blinks the buttons to be pressed; or a model of a car engine with labels and arrows that pop up, and guide you through the concepts? A sewing machine with a special piece of “cloth” that has instructions on it where to place your hands and where to sew?

A hypothetical training based on these kinds of interactive teaching materials would clearly be targeted at self-study students. The students would probably not buy them — the catch is that these types of materials need to be “reset” to be used again. In the example with the phone, the SIM card and the battery need to be taken out and placed back into their compartments. The example with the sewing machine cloth would be harder to reset though, did we already invent the selfdestructing thread? :-D

The materials could be made available at libraries or schools, and students could book timeslots to use them in the afternoon. Just like they put returned books back, the school or library staff resets the materials for the next visitor. I don’t know how much overhead this would incur for the staff, and whether repeated use would wear the materials out quickly. But for quick and easy how to things that are not obvious, and cannot be truely taught hands-off (by text or a video), such teaching implements would be an cool option…

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