Give the user control


The choice of what to speak, how much and when, is always an attempt to give the user the information they need without overloading them with too much information, which can be both annoying and distracting. What is needed and what is too much will vary from one user to another, depending on their familiarity, their ability to process information and their personal preferences. It is therefore very useful for individual users to be able to control the amount of information that is spoken.

A high verbosity mode which provides more detailed descriptions and instructions can be very useful for new users or those who have difficulty understanding or remembering the interface. A low verbosity mode may be preferred by experienced users.

The clarity of particular voices varies from person to person, so it can be useful to allow users to control voice characteristics such as accent, pitch and volume. Control over speed is also very useful. Users of spoken output (in computer screen reading software for example) often increase the speed as they get more used to it, up to a point far beyond what is understandable to a novice user. This increases efficiency and reduces frustration.

As previously noted, many users of spoken output watch television in a family or communal situation with other viewers who may not need or want the spoken output. It therefore helps if the speech can be easily enabled and disabled. This makes the equipment suitable for a wider range of users, including, for example, families with one blind member who do not want a television that talks all the time but would like to have the facility available.

To allow maximum control, it is useful to have dedicated buttons on the remote control for enabling and disabling spoken output, repeating and stopping speech.

Directions and techniques

Give the option of turning on spoken output at start up and during operation

A message should be spoken when the receiver is started up asking users whether they would like spoken output, if it is not already enabled from the previous session. If not activated within a particular time limit, the receiver can default to no speech. This start up message should include instructions for enabling or disabling speech during operation, if this is different from the method at start up.

Provide a means to easily switch the spoken output on and off

In addition to providing an option within the set-up menus for switching spoken output on or off, a means should be provided for the user to do this while watching a programme without leaving the program to go to the menu.

The most usable method is to have a button on the remote control assigned to toggling the spoken output.

Allow the user to stop or repeat the spoken output

Spoken output of the current item should stop when the user moves to a new item. In addition, a dedicated button stop speaking button on the remote control should be provided to allow users to cut short the spoken output when they have heard what they need to know, even before it has finished speaking.

A "repeat" button can be provided to repeat the last spoken output or, if it is currently speaking, restart the current speech from the beginning. If the information has changed since the last presentation, for example the time, the updated information should be presented rather than repeating the previous information.

In some cases, it may be useful to add additional information when repeating, such as navigation information for the current screen.

Give the user control over how much is spoken

Allow users to change the verbosity of the spoken output.

In high verbosity mode, the output can include detailed instructions on how to operate the equipment. For example, when entering the programme guide it might announce use the arrow buttons on your remote control to select a programme. Press up or down to go to the next or previous channel. Press left or right to go to the next or previous programme. To watch the currently selected programme, press the select button..

Giving the user control over how it is spoken

Users should be able to control the presentation of speech. This can include changing the volume of the speech output independently of the television volume, changing the speed and pitch of the spoken output and selecting from a range of voices, including male and female of different accents.

Retain spoken output settings

Settings should be stored in a way that ensures they persist over time and are unaffected by powering down or system software upgrades.

Documentation and consumer information

Documentation and consumer information refers to any piece of promotional or support information that accompanies a product or service. This includes information that is made available before purchase, during the ordering process or provided to the customer along with the product or service. This includes instruction manuals, quick start guides and product information. It may be provided in print, online, by telephone or built into the product. It may be in the form of text, graphics or audiovisual.

Consumers are presented on a daily basis with an abundance of information through media, the internet, mobile communications and other sources. An overload of information on products and services can cause considerable confusion. When information is clear, concise and understandable, it not only supports usability, it makes the entire customer experience more positive and enjoyable.

Products and services that have been designed to address a range of needs can in fact be made unusable if the information that accompanies them is itself not accessible and understandable. Documentation and consumer information is therefore a key catalyst for ensuring that a product or service is universally designed.

Sources of information used for the guidelines on documentation and consumer information

As stated in the overall introduction to the guidelines,these recommendations are largely the result of a compilation and restructuring of information contained in existing resources. The key resources used for this section were:

These and other resources are referenced in the bibliography.

Ensure that information can be understood by all users


Documentation is the link between a user and the product or service. If a user cannot understand the information that accompanies the product or a service, they will be unable to use it to its full potential, or in some cases at all. If a potential user cannot understand information about a product or service that they wish to order, they may not order it and the provider may lose a valuable customer.

A lot of people find instructional information very difficult to follow. Information that is overly technical or that is not written for the widest possible audience will confuse and frustrate users. Information that is clear, concise and understandable will be of benefit to even the most tech-savvy of users who will appreciate instructions that are well thought out and designed for ease of use.

The more users are able to understand the documentation, the more they will be able to use the product or service independently. This will result in fewer customer service calls to be answered by the service provider.

Directions and techniques

Use simple language in written and verbal communications (high priority)

Write the instructions for the least experienced user, not the most experienced. Wherever possible, use clear, concise, non-technical language, according to plain english guidelines. This approach uses short sentences and avoids jargon and complicated words or phrases. It can be used to introduce the necessary technicalities and the basic terminology in a way that helps readers understand something the first time they read it.

If it was more plain english. Just ordinary words. You don’t have to have all the big words.

guidelines survey respondent.

Organise instructions around user tasks, rather than system components. where a number of assembly and/or installation steps are required, it is helpful to number the steps in sequence and to include a text and graphic image for each step.

Application forms should also be designed in a way that makes them easy to understand and complete. By making both the content and the layout clear and concise, users will know what information is required, in what form and where to enter it. Follow plain english guidelines for forms.

Customer service representatives should also be able to describe technical terms in a non-technical way.

Most try to help and are patient but you need tech knowledge.

Difficult to access specific information by phone. Marketing people do not understand the lack of knowledge of old people in the "press-button" age. Old people have poor skills in choosing in this digital age. Instructions too complicated. Lack clarity.

guidelines survey respondents.

Give relevant information in a logical order (high priority)

Identify the key information that the user is most likely to require and ensure that it is up front and as prominent as possible. In many cases it can help to imagine that the instructions are telling a story, walking the user through an action step-by-step. Starting with a list of the required components, explain how these should be prepared, then give step-by-step instructions in the exact order in which they should be carried out.

Provide at least the key information in a number of different ways

Exploit the fact that people take in information in different ways. Provide key information in both text-based and graphical forms.

Provide a way for users to get further clarification

Provide clear information about sources of further information, such as a contact number, an email address or a website. Remember that not every user will have internet access and not every user can use a telephone, so providing a range of options is key to meeting the needs of as many users as possible.

How you could test for this

To find out whether efforts to make documentation and information understandable will be successful, it is necessary to test it with a wide range of users, including people with low literacy, cognitive impairments and reading disorders. This can be done by asking the users to set up and use the product or service by referring to the documentation. Further tests could also be included within general long term user trials encompassing the whole process of setting up, learning and using the product or service.

Ensure that information is available to every user in a form that is accessible to them


Documentation and consumer information can be provided in a variety of forms text, graphics, audio, video, etc. And through a variety of channels print, online, email, telephone, etc. For each form and channel, there will be some users for whom it is not accessible. For example, people with sight loss, low literacy or reading disorders may find it difficult or impossible to read printed information. People who are deaf or hard of hearing will have difficulties with audible information or telephone conversations. Online information can be designed to be accessible to the widest audience but not everyone has access to the internet or email.

Directions and techniques

Adopt a widely accessible standard format for printed information (high priority)

Adopt a standard print format that is as accessible as possible to the largest number of people, within the constraints of branding, marketing considerations and production costs. Making the standard format as accessible as possible minimises the need to produce additional formats for individual users.

Aim for clarity at all time when choosing a typeface or designing a layout. If in doubt, keep it simple.

An appropriate standard format may, for example:

  • Use a font size that is easily read by the widest range of users possible. depending on the typeface used, 12 point could be considered as the minimum type size for standard format. 14 point is commonly used, so more people can access the standard format. print above 16 point is considered to be large print. be printed on matte finish paper, not glossy;
  • Use a good contrast with a plain background for text;
  • Be written in easy to read language, using a mixture of text and graphics.

For more detailed guidance, refer to plain english and make it clear guidelines and the section on literature and application forms in the smart card guidelines.

Make digital and online information accessible to people with disabilities (high priority)

Online documentation should be made accessible to users with disabilities by following theweb content accessibility guidelines (wcag) from the web accessibility initiative (wai), part of the world wide web consortium (w3c). By following these guidelines it is possible to make web-based documentation maximally accessible to almost all users, without compromising significantly on its design and functionality. The result will be a flexible format that individual users can transform to meet their needs by resizing it, changing the colours, having it read out as speech or converting it to braille for example.

Wcag is the de facto international standard for web content accessibility and is referenced in legislation in a number of countries. In Ireland, compliance with wcag at level aa is recommended in the NDA code of practice on accessibility of public services and information provided by public bodies. This is an approved code of practice for the purposes of the disability act, 2005 and relates to sections 26, 27 and 28 of the act which cover access to information and services.

Supply additional accessible formats where required (high priority)

Users who cannot read the standard printed information and do not have access to online documentation (e.g. Those without internet access) should be able to request the information in additional formats that meet their needs. These may include large print (of various sizes), braille, audio or a sign language version (for instance on dvd).

Information on accessible formats can be found in the NDA publication first steps in producing accessible publications.

Information contained in an alternative format should be equivalent to that contained in the standard format. This may require information that is presented using diagrams or screen shots to be made available within the text instructions.

How you could test for this

Online documentation and information sources should be tested for accessibility and usability. This testing can take the form of an audit or user testing, including testing by people with disabilities. An accessibility audit can be conducted on all key sections of the website to ensure that they adhere to the relevant web accessibility guidelines. The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design at the National Disability Authority provides guidelines on web accessibility auditing which describe how to commission and what outputs to expect.

Include as much useful information as possible with the product


The instructions that accompany a piece of equipment are potentially the most critical source of information for users. If they are not accessible and understandable, some users will be unable to set up, use their equipment or recover from errors or malfunctions without assistance. This assistance may be at the expense of the service provider with whom the user has the contract, as they have to answer customer queries, customer complaints, carry out home visits or in some cases they risk losing the customers business completely. A manual or guide that enables as many people as possible to set up and use their equipment as independently as possible is of benefit to both the service provider and the customer.

research by accenture has estimated that in 2011 us consumer electronics (ce) manufacturers, communication carriers and electronics retailers will spend an estimated $16.7 billion to receive, assess, repair, rebox, restock and resell returned merchandise. According to this research for more than two thirds of these costs (over $11 billion us dollars) the products did not meet the customers expectations, or the customer believed that there was something wrong with the product, when in fact it was working perfectly.

The packaging that equipment arrives in is the first part of the product that a user sees. The information provided on the package has the power to make or break the set-up and installation of any piece of equipment. It therefore needs to be clear, concise and contain the essential information in order to minimise confusion and mistakes. This is of particular importance for people who have little of no prior experience of setting up or using the equipment in question.

Directions and techniques

Identify the most useful information to include (high priority)

Design information around the out-of-box experience.the customers experience, from purchasing a product to successfully using the product, should involve a natural task flow in which the required information is available when it is needed. It is useful to storyboard this task flow from the users point of view, starting with reading the packaging, opening it, retrieving the parts, putting them together, installing them in the home, plugging in, switching on and so on, right through to successfully watching television programmes and using all the equipments functionality. Walking through this process, ask what does the user need to know at this point?.

Convey clear information about the functions of the equipment. Where appropriate, use official recognised logos.

Include instructions for common home connecting scenarios for common combinations of equipment.

Provide a troubleshooting guide, including information about when the user needs to reboot the system.

Identify the most frequently asked questions to the customer service helpline. Revise the instruction manual to address the most common issues.

Include essential information on the packaging itself (high priority)

Identify and prioritise the key user information that must be included on the different layers of packaging. For example, the packaging might (1) identify the product, (2) list the product specifications, (3) list what is included in the packaging, (4) list what is not included in the packaging but is needed for the product to work, and so on. Identify which of these pieces of key information must be on the outermost packaging, which can be on the secondary packaging and which can be placed on the equipment itself (e.g. A quick set up guide sticker on the top of a set top box, which easily peels off).

Identify the critical steps that the user must take between opening the packaging and setting up the equipment. Can this be simplified? if possible, keep the initial set-up to a small number of critical steps (e.g. Three steps to quick set up). Print these clearly on the packaging itself and number them. More detailed guidance can then be provided in the instruction manual or user guide.

Identify any other critical information, such as how to check for digital reception and include information about this on the packaging.

The packaging may contain lots of different pieces of information aimed at people, other than the user. For example, the product code for manufacturing staff and the product name, specifications and bar code for retail staff. This information should be grouped and presented in a way that distinguishes it from the information aimed at the user.

Provide information about the accessibility features of the product (high priority)

The packaging information should include details of any accessibility features that are included in the equipment. This may be the deciding factor for a customer buying this product or selecting one that is clearly labelled as having a particular accessibility feature.

If there is an accessibility help line or specific content access services, this should be included on the packaging information.

How can you test for this?

Run user tests with users from a range of age groups and including people with low literacy, cognitive impairments and reading disorders. Ask them to unpack, set up and use the product by referring to the information provided. It is particularly important to include people who have difficulty with technology (whether this is to do with sensory, cognitive or physical limitations or due to lack of experience with technology), but also include tech savvy users. User testing only with existing customers is not effective, as they are already able to use the technology. It is important to get feedback from people who are unable to use it at all (and hence are not customers) if you are to find design solutions for the problems they encounter.

Identify the most frequently asked questions to the customer service helpline. These will help you to identify what customers are looking for in a product and what they are not getting from your product as it is currently designed. Revise documentation and customer information accordingly.

Talk to your customers, request feedback on what they like and what they do not like. Let this information guide the design of both the equipment and the accompanying information.