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LEGOs Sure Know Their Stuff

By Melissa Donndelinger


Let’s face it, not many people use instructions.  Even better, of those who use them, how many actually figure out what they needed to do by using them?  Overall, instructions and directions are not typically people-friendly.


What makes instructions so hard to follow and unfriendly to their users? It is possible that the users simply don’t do well with a particular form of instructions. It’s also possible that the producers of the instructions don’t use an ideal way of “showing” how to do something.


Let’s evaluate a couple of different types of instructions and figure out which style works best. First, there are the pictorial diagrams. A good example of this type of instruction is the one used in assembling LEGOs.  LEGO diagrams are labeled by the shape of the different pieces and how many dots each one has. The location of the LEGO is indicated by arrow diagrams that show how the LEGOs should sit on top of each other.


Another pictorial diagram is the one used in putting all the accessories of a computer together. Each component is color-coded as to where it should be placed in the back of the tower. For example, the keyboard ports are purple, speakers green, monitor blue, microphone pink, etc. While there are pictorial diagrams that show where each plug should go, a user could simply use common sense and connect the colors.


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There are also the written instructions that come in manuals. Often times when opening a product and a book falls out at your feet you don’t get very excited to start putting parts together. Assembling a futon suddenly turns from a twenty minute project to a two hour frustrating ordeal. These manuals are full of words, but don’t really assist with the “where does this go?” questions that a pictorial direction would show you.  Often times those written directions will give some numbered steps, and those usually work, but sometimes they don’t seem like they are in the correct order.


So, seriously, what’s the best type of directions? A poll was taken of students and faculty members here on campus. Of that poll, 40 out of the 50 individuals asked said they rarely if ever, use the directions. While the directions were not very popular with these individuals, they still preferred the pictorial diagrams. However, as a reference guide, or when assembling a large project, like car parts, step-by-step directions and manuals were preferred.


Overall, people are still kids at heart. They still enjoy the directions that they used as a child. From the survey used, people still like the LEGO styled diagrams. They’re simple, quick, and easy to follow. However, they also recognize that at times, more extensive directions are needed, but when not, people prefer the easy.