Interactive animation is best described as a sequence of visual and auditory elements. It can be used to explain complex processes, such as a sequence of installation instructions. Interactive animation is an increasingly important form of animation. Research on interactive animation has provided some interesting insights. Viewers remember information for longer than when any other form of instruction is used. This makes it a more effective way to share information. Viewers also learn faster, resulting in a more efficient form of instruction.
Stepping away from reading
Traditional user manuals, such as paper manuals, can take a lot of time to read. Moreover, it takes just one unclear step for users to get stuck and require customer support. Research has also shown a significant correlation between the quality of a manual and the perceived quality of the product. It confirms that user manual quality is essential for customer satisfaction.
At INSTRKTIV, we recognize this challenge and believe that innovative solutions are just around the corner. That is why we, together with our partner Zoomworks, set out to create an interactive user manual pilot for a drone. The goal was a memorable and user-friendly manual, according to the principles of minimalism in technical communication.
Why minimalism works for manuals
Minimalism is a design philosophy that is both use-centred and user-centred. It is focused on supporting usage of an application and adapting it to its audience. Minimalism promotes an action-oriented approach, through instructional activities that are real tasks. The design strategies also support error recognition and recovery, in which usability testing plays a key role. Since readers are task and action oriented, content should be as brief as possible. The focus should not only be on how to present the content, but also on what include and, better yet, what to exclude.
Creating an interactive experience
With this in mind, we set up a team of UX designers and audio-visual specialists who created a full-screen experience, with the help of Ivory Studio’s Toolbox for interactive and personalised video. Full-screen size enables details to be displayed more accurately, which ultimately improves the user experience.
The step-by-step experience guides users through a workflow with clearly animated goals. The user has full control by selecting individual steps related to content, installation, and preparation. The intuitive options to skip, repeat, return, or move forward, require just a click or mouseover. These features are aimed at providing maximum autnomy.
Key takeaways from the pilot
Naturally, there is a learning curve. For future interactive manuals, INSTRKTIV has several areas of improvement to focus on. The level of interactivity can be improved, as this pilot has shown to be somewhat too static. The animations can run smoother and faster as well.
Much can be gained with the buttons as well, by adding elements such as the hover state. This gives users feedback that they can interact with via their mouse. The hover state should be recognisable, which can be achieved with colour tone changes, shadow, and scale with transitions.
Colour has an important function overall. We realise now that the notice blocks will stand out more if a complementary colour is used, instead of the same grey colours as the drone itself.
In terms of UX, it would be useful to adapt to the user’s screen size. On a 27-inch screen, the manual turned out to be too big, leaving little room for white space.
Finally, in the last step, it should be clear how users can return to the main menu, to avoid clicking the back button multiple times. A notice box is a possible solution, or adding more visibility to the main menu button.
Combining ideas for optimal visualisation
One of the ideas INSTRKTIV has, following the pilot, is to add a short, animated brand intro to a product manual. Ivorystudio has done a great job with this for Cetabever, which you can check out here.
In addition, the Cetabever animation is a great example of a higher level of interactivity, which we mentioned before. It is a more convincing and inviting visualisation compared to the drone pilot.
Another interesting example of a user-friendly visual animation is this 3D animation for Quooker, created by our partner Zoomworks, with whom we created the interactive drone manual. The company was looking for a better way to show consumers and installers the installation process of the Quooker tap and reservoir. 3D animation lends itself perfectly for such a purpose and is easy to apply in multiple languages.
Taking it to the next level
Making interactive user manuals available in the Metaverse and in VR or XR seems like a logical next step. The Metaverse represents a world where we can control and access our digital experiences in a much more flexible environment than on the internet.
It is still in the early stages of evolution, but it is not difficult to imagine a role for interactive user manuals here. With a virtual version of a product, the perceived gap between digital and physical reality can be closed. It opens the door to a completely different way of sharing information, with endless possibilities.
Founder of INSTRKTIV and keen to help users become experts in the use of a product, and thus to contribute to a positive user experience. Eager to help organisations to reduce their product liability. Just loves cooking, travel, and music--especially electronic. You can also find him on:
Profile Page, Linkedin, Instagram and Twitter!
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