We want more detail. We want more facts. The Web changes the nature of how we make decisions.
“It’s really easy to install,” the friendly sales rep said. “Even my mother could do it.”
What the sales rep obviously didn’t tell me was that his mother was a fully qualified electrician. And what was I going to do now? The delivery men had left. I had removed the plastic and the Styrofoam. I had opened the doors of my shiny new oven and there lay the half-baked instruction manual written in tortuous English and (I presume) tortuous 2,600 other languages.
Oh, the glories of localization. It’s an utter commodity, sweat shop world, isn’t it? How can we translate stuff for the cheapest possible price? Whether anyone can understand it or not is utterly irrelevant. Cheap and nasty content is what we need.
Did you ever wonder why manuals come in 2,600 languages? Seems such a waste of paper. Surely it’s easier for the company to have one big fat manual than lots of individual ones. (Less sorting, etc.) The concept of content as an extremely low-value commodity pervades the localization industry.
That strategy worked when you could hide the half-baked instruction manual in an oven. If you only got the manual AFTER you bought the product, what could you do? But on the Web, it’s different.
I want to get a monitor gauge for my oil tank. In my previous house I had one and it wasn’t easy to install. My big worry was drilling the hole and having shavings drop into the oil below with potentially damaging consequences.
One of the products I was looking at said “no drilling required.” I thought about that oven sales rep whose mother is a qualified electrician. So I searched around the website and until I found the installation manual and read it carefully. (If I didn’t find the manual I would have left the website.) It turns out there’s no major drilling required only if you already have a pre-drilled 30 cm hole and cap. Even then you will have to drill two holes for the screws. So, there is drilling required.
This is why we go to the Web: to make better decisions. Some offline marketing or advertising message might have gotten our attention. We want to check up. We want to verify. We want detail. We want facts. Particularly for technical, complex products, we want to know what happens AFTER we buy this thing.
The “technical documentation” used to be hidden in the oven. It had no impact on the sale. It was a cost to be minimized. Now, the technical documentation is making or breaking the sale. The fluffy throwaway content that so many marketers produce has little or no relevance on the Web. If anything, it drives customers mad with its vague, meaningless branding waffle. Customers want the good stuff.
Web content is not a cost to be minimized but rather an asset to be maximized. Technical documentation is the new sales. Wow! Think about that. Big implications.