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Cars, complexity and instruction manuals

Son Sandy left his Mini Cooper S at Landrick on Tuesday while he is away for five weeks. By today, enough snow had melted to make our road driveable, so I thought I'd drive it to Stirling to keep its battery in condition. My first problem was finding where to insert the remote control/key: its slot is obscured by both steering wheel and wiper stalk. After a bit of searching, I found it and the car started at a touch of the button which, as on a Windows computer, doubles as both Start and Stop.

The big problem was how to remove the key, which resisted even a desperate tug, and which I was reluctant to leave in the car, even standing at our door, in case the doors locked automatically after a delay. Well, I've been long enough with computers and cars that, if all else fails, I know I'll have to consult the manual: deep sigh.

The Cooper S manual has 223 pages including an index: nothing in the index. Nothing in the first 20 pages of so-called Overview, except a full-page uncaptioned photograph of my problem. Nothing in the next 26 pages, allegedly about Controls but mainly devoted to the "personal profile", customising your locking and alarm settings, a feature called "Convenient access" which told me all about the remote control, including how to change its battery, but unbelievably didn't include the vital information about how to remove it from its slot. I had to plough through pages of being told not to hurt myself when closing the windows; how to operate the sunroof even if the electrics fail; how the slipstream deflector works; everything about seat controls, airbags and head restraints; seat heating, seat belts and adjusting the mirrors and steering wheel; and four pages of child safety!

Finally, on page 48 we reach driving and how to remove the key. Obvious: to pull it out, just push it in further! How intuitive is that? More to the point, why doesn't the manual have a Quick-start single page that tells you what you really need to know, like how to start and stop the car? I always used to provide this when writing software manuals, and as cars become more and more complicated, it becomes more and more necessary for them, too.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 15, 2010 4:48 PM.

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