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Some Assembly Required: The New Car Stereo

| September 13, 2016 | Scott Allshouse

Mechanic reading instructions manual and replacing broken part

My upgraded car stereo has been installed in my truck for over six months and I’m still trying to figure out how to use it. The old “Mountain Motors” radio had big, bold buttons, was well illuminated and did a few simple things well. The performance was waning from years of pounding the dusty forest service roads to my favorite trailheads.

As I searched for a new radio, there were lots to select from but some had limitations to take into consideration. A big display with great features would not fit my dash out of the box and a super custom cut and cuss installation did not seem like a great idea.

To find one that did fit, I turned to websites that offer tools to find radios and compare different models and brands. I had a handful of requirements. My new radio needed to:

The radio I chose was a popular brand in single DIN configuration. Removing it from the box, I could tell right away it was much smaller than my OEM Mountain Motors radio. That’s okay because the vendor sent included a kit that promised to fill the gap with a professional look.

With the new radio out of the box I found myself with vendor instructions with lots of assembly photos that sort of looked like my truck. Then I had manufacturer instructions that combined assembly and operation in a booklet of very small print and line art graphics.

Yes, I read through all the instructions first because that is what I do. The challenge I had was the difficulty of memorizing the important parts and navigating key parts of the manuals. To help, I brought my mobile tablet to the garage to find the relevant manual online as a PDF. At least with the PDF I would be able to enlarge the text for better viewing. (Though navigation was a plain page turner PDF with no links to more helpful information.)

There was a lot of interpretation required to install the radio. I would take a few steps from the vendor’s lackluster photographic instructions then take a few steps from the OEM manufacturers instructions. Once the unit was finally locked in place it was plain to see the gap left by removing the old radio. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

That evening I installed and reinstalled my stereo at least three times. The amount of effort and time it took to get the job done wasn’t from my ability to do the task correctly. The challenge was the instructional content and how it was presented.

This is a case where I wish an experienced technician was preparing the content for my assembly instructions. There is a lot of value in technical authoring that comes from a technician that has spent years in field service or working on the manufacturing shop floor.  These technicians understand how things really work versus how they were designed. All they need is an author-friendly way to capture their knowledge so that it can be shared, stored, updated and delivered with ease.

Content Automation Improves Customer Experience

Industries of all types struggle with capturing content and ensuring it is customer friendly throughout its lifecycle. In the ideal (and achievable, by the way) process, engineers and technical subject matter experts (SMEs) prepare specifications, requirements and instructions using a content automation solution. They focus on what to write and not how it’s written or what it looks like. Valuable structure, already widely used in technical communication industry, is automatically provided in the background.

Once the content is created, it is managed so that engineers, SME’s and reviewers can perform their work naturally, without complexity. The information is made available for technical communicators, auditors and other downstream users via a system of record. And, finally, the information is published in ways it will best be consumed. PDF, a printed hardcopy, valuable mobile formats, and/or an app.

There is genuine business value in the content automation process. Content does not have to be a necessary evil that is required to accompany products. Instead, content can and should be the driving force behind a buyer’s product decision. You can be sure the next product I buy where some assembly is required I’ll be looking at the instructions first before I’m caught up in the features.

Scott Allshouse is a US Navy veteran and a student of human behavior in how technicians, consumers and business people consume content to perform day-to-day and complex tasks. As a Business Transformation Manager, Scott highlights Content Automation technology value for manufacturing, financial, healthcare and other businesses wanting to improve revenue, margins and efficiency. He is a Regional Account Executive at Quark Enterprise Solutions.

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