Sunday, May 10, 2009

User scenarios, anybody?

It was while leafing though the microwave guide, trying to find something, that I realised those good souls at the techpubs department of the microwave company had probably not done a user-needs analysis.

Before we go any further, let's first profile me. Female, Indian, grew up on mother's cooking, manages a home and a career, hates eating out, is always rushed for time. A microwave, they say, is handy for such people. It even (!) cooks Indian food without using as much oil (or time). So, fine, here I was trying to cook Indian food. I was making myself some aloo-dum and wanted the steps to:
  1. Heat oil on high, throw in the seasoning, reduce heat.
  2. Wait for a minute, increase the heat, throw in the aloo cubes, stir, cover.
  3. Wait for two minutes or so, reduce the heat, let it cook.
  4. Take out cooked aloo-dum and eat with puffed rotis cooked separately.
I was looking to combine steps 2 and 3 - I wanted to keep the stuff on increased heat for a few minutes and then get the microwave to reduce the heat automatically without manual intervention.

The microwave guide had no instructions for this scenario. Which means, I had to hover over the microwave for two or so minutes, manually reduce the heat, and ...
Two minutes is a long time for anyone rushed for time. Heck, even a Hindi film song gets over in two minutes. If I have to hover around the oven for two minutes, I might as well use the good old gas burner. So, I remembered the techwriter's Law No. 1: RTFM*

I did. And found nothing. It has a nice section on Indian recipes, with nice preset buttons that you can use to cook stuff. Nice. But it still did not tell me anything about setting the cooking cycle for multiple stages. The closest it got was this:

No, I wasn't cooking chicken tangdi kebab, thank you.

All Indian cooking, if my knoweldge serves me right, goes through a cycle of increase heat -> decrease heat -> increase heat -> decrease heat. This manual, meant to accompany a product that was being sold in India for Indians, didn't tell me how to.

* RTFM stands for Read The Fucking Manual. Back

Just in case you're wondering - the brother figured it out. He looked at the manual, tossed it aside, looked closely at the buttons, tried a few press this - press that combos with still-raw food (we ate it after those several experiments of his), and figured out the combo. I'm not sure if I'll ever look at that manual again.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved learning the tech writer's law No. 1: RTFM! :)