It was about time that I sell off my 2005 Acura that I purchased in 2008. I clocked over 110K miles on it under my possession. My commute had become 30 miles one way in a stop and go traffic of I-880. It takes me 1.5 hours each way and the 13 year old car was not going to cut it. Especially when its mileage efficiency was 19MPG in that traffic at Premium gas consumption.
So I ventured out to purchase a brand new car with new technologies that fits my budget as well as give a great MPG on a regular gas. After several trips to various dealerships I purchased a 2018 Toyota Camry LE.
This car was a downgrade from the interior luxury standpoint that my 2005 Acura RL was equipped with. I had to really get used to the plasticky feeling interior of Camry because my main intent of purchasing it was fuel efficiency and super low maintenance cost.
After few weeks of driving it, I came across few issues that I had in the car. The 2018 windshield appeared to be significantly sub-par to the 2005 Acura. This year Bay Area is being battered with much more rains than seen in previous years! Which led me to discover that the Radar Cruise Control threw errors while it rained and moreover I had no idea how to switch to regular cruise control, rear-view camera was not wide-angle which meant I still had to rubber-neck while backing out from a parking spot.
..we checked your glove compartment and found that the user manuals of the car are still sealed in plastic coverings. I you’d read them you’d know that everything is working as designed and there are ways to switch to regular cruise control.
So I made an appointment with the dealership and asked them to check out everything. Among all the issues, I had hard time understanding how to switch to regular cruise control when Radar cruise control failed. After all the checks, the service specialist mentioned that everything is working as designed and that there are no issues in the car.
What?! Everything was working as designed? The “malfunctioning” of radar cruise control was as designed!!?? What the *$%#!!
Now, professionally I help Consumer Internet companies build products that removes friction and provides a pleasant user flow on their websites. I help them develop empathy towards our users so that they develop the products and flow that are in line or well beyond user expectations that makes their browsing experience smooth, meaningful, and most importantly helps them complete the task for which they visited the website in the first place.
In short, I provide focus on design elements of webpage and their intuitiveness and what they data says about usage of those elements.
Surprisingly, in my rage moment with the Service specialist I lost the empathy towards him and argued on and on about the error message and that there was no easy way to switch to regular cruise control mode.
What made me tick specifically was when he said “...we checked your glove compartment and found that the user manuals of the car are still sealed in plastic coverings. I you’d read them you’d know that everything is working as designed and there are ways to switch to regular cruise control”.
When I look back at what I do, in Internet world, there are no “Manuals” of what each webpage does or what each button does. It is highly intuitive. Companies great UX team build “tooltips” or “on boarding flows” when user visits the website or uses the App for the first time. But after that, mostly it is driven by intuition on what each tab means.
If I still have to read a User Manual for operating a <insert product> then you have a lot of work to do!
2 Billion Facebook users did not read a user manual on how to use its website or apps. Similarly, in e-commerce world everyone universally understands the difference between an “add to cart” button vs “login” button. Age 55+ people in India haven’t read user manuals on Whatsapp before widely adopting it as THE app for their social consumption (although there should’ve been a manual for them explaining the social etiquette against forwarding relentless and ridiculous “good morning” messages!). Google has made a blank long horizontal bar and/or the magnifying icon synonym with a “search box” across the internet. Heck, there is no tooltip telling you that "this is a Search Bar" when you go to a new site!
Anyways, coming back to my gripes about the car, I straight away told him, “Cruise control as a feature has been around in the automobile industry for well around 20 years. If I still have to read a User Manual for operating a cruise control then, honestly, Toyota has a lot of work to do."
I told him that I understand that Radar cruise control might fail in rains because of visibility issues but couldn’t the car’s computer automatically switch to manual cruise control? Is Toyota that delusional! That is not an AI feature. It is a simple IF <this> THEN <that> logic. Let’s say that could be a hazardous feature where driver may not realize the cruise control has been switched to manual mode. There is a LED screen right next to speedometer. What good is it for?
That screen is not to show just fancy graphics. It should display information or help like the 90’s Microsoft Office Assistant Clippy! A better failure message could have given me the simple cause of it, and next steps, like “radar cruise control will not work in rains. Do <this> to activate regular cruise control.” And you may ask how the car knows it is raining? Because my wipers are ON! See, it is not a rocket science, just logic!
I think it is high time that automobile industry takes a page from Tesla and other standardized design elements from the Internet industry and simplify their products.
Every company should build their products with a philosophy that there will be NO user manual for this. They should ask if my 5 year old kid understand it? Can my 80 year old granny or father understand it? Only then it will be successful in winning the next generation of users. If it takes more than 3 seconds to understand a feature than the feature is an inflicted wound on the product and if not cared for quickly it will bleed to death.
Do you agree?
Honestly, I still did not get any answer on how to switch to manual cruise control as our discussions went into design philosophy and other feature lags in the 2019 Toyota.
I still refuse to use a #$%&ing user manual. But I used one of the standard design cue and found out how to switch to regular cruise control! I tried “toggling" but didn’t work. Then I tried "long-press” and viola, I had turned on regular cruise control! My kudos to the Toyota designers for not telling me that on the screen but burying it in a 300 (my guess) page user manual.
P.S.: Even though I am a proponent of Facebook and Google advertising, I am strongly against running ads for a flawed product. A one time advertising for an awesome product should pay for itself over years in the form of increased Customer Lifetime Value. Otherwise every single cent is just a waste on buying traffic to a product that people would hate even more!
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