How Apple’s Setup Guide Shows that it Thinks Different

Seth Godin believes that everything reflects what you stand for—right down to your technical documents. Ever looked at Apple’s tech docs?

How Apple’s Setup Guides Shows it Thinks Different

Looking for inspiration?

Well, this puppy has been looking for inspiration recently. I’m writing a series of Setup Guides and wanted to see how others approach this area. It’s not the most glamorous area in the world, to be honest.

Most Setup Guides I found were dull and duller.

I felt I was being crushed by mono-chrome guides that punished me for reading them in the first place.

What was wrong with these Setup Guides?

Technical documents are a sales tool. You might not think of it like that, but they are. If you enjoy (that’s right, enjoy) reading user guides and setup manuals, then you’re bound to feel more positive about the company.

This is great, you think. I can actually install this myself, I understand how it works and I didn’t end up screaming at the walls/kids/pets/friends in frustration.

I’m sure you’ve been there. Which brings us to Apple.

What I like about Apple’s Setup Guides?

I came across these when trawling. Actually, type Setup Guide into Google and Apple comes up first. Interesting in itself.

Color coordination – the documents use two colors only. Blue and white. While this may seem a limitation, it works to their advantage. The documents look crisp, fresh and trendy. How often can you say that about a Setup Guide?

1. Warnings – it front loads the warnings at the start. Instead of burying this at the end of the document or in some obscure footnote, there it is in the first page. You know where you stand from the start.

2. Important – in the same vein, it flags the most important information on the same page.

Tip: it places this inside a box with a single-pixel border. This calls you eye to this text and re-enforces that this is IMPORTANT text. You can’t help but read it.

3. Bullet lists — it places these outside the margin of the text; usually, these are flushed to the left or indented. At first I found this irritating but now I’m in two minds.

Does it improve the readability of the document?

It does help in finding the steps faster as they are ‘pulled out’ and not hidden in the text.

4. Bullet list part 2— the Setup Guide uses a bullet list for one item. I’d have re-phrased the text or removed the bullet as I was thought (right or wrong?) that you should not have a list with only 1 item.

What do you think?

5. Hyperlinks — this may have been an accident (or deliberate) but the hyperlinks in the document are not active. I think this is an error as it forces the reader to manually type the URL into the browser.

If it’s intentional, then why?

6. Illustrations — in the top left diagram, the Status Light text is positioned above the product, which means that arrow has to cross the product to reach the port.

I’d have positioned the text under the product to avoid this, i.e. so that the line/arrow did not obscure the product in any way.

Your 2 cents, please!

What tips do you have for writing Setup Guide?

Do you think Apple’s minimal approach works? Other Setup Guides uses photos of the product instead of line drawing.

Which do you think works best?