Ever bought something and opened the instructions only to read what seemed like a foreign language? A 400 step Lego instruction sheet, 18 steps to installing AA batteries, you get the picture, tasks made more difficult by the same directions that were supposed to make your life easier.
This happened to me the other day; I was trying to complete the simple task of switching out blades on a weed wacker. The problem came with the accompanying manual. For my own safety I read the page on swapping tools to make sure I did it right, but the manual boggled me.
I can appreciate the attention to detail and technical offering it provided, but in this case, it turned a simple task into a five page ordeal complete with a foreign vocabulary. The disconnect I felt was frustrating, I am not an engineer and neither are most of the other people using this product. It left me asking why there was so complex and detailed guide for a task that literally involved one screwdriver and some twisting.
The missing link was a translation from the engineering minded creators and the end user. The simple fact is that I will never possess the knowledge to build a weed wacker, nor do I want to. If you have a technically beautiful product, try not to get caught up in it. Remember to keep your customer in mind when creating the accompanying support materials and keep the language accessible to people of all kinds.
If you have a website like we do here at Salty Waffle, make sure the language and words you use can be understood by your target audience. This is something we grade ourselves on in our website score. We don’t want too much technical language pushing away people that are here to learn. Keeping things accessible is so important to us, we have a whole page dedicated to opening up social media to everyone!
Look over your site, manuals, handouts, ads—whatever it is you have out there and play the role of a random person not educated or familiar with your field. Is it clear? Does it put what you do into a language that doesn’t require a working knowledge to understand? Entire communities can develop around these disconnects like with Microsoft and Windows. Microsoft actually did a great thing by adopting that support community and making it official, but you have the opportunity to manage that gap yourself from the get go and help your customers to fully understand your product simply by putting everything into their language.