New information design can facilitate handling of technical products in industry

Jan 27, 2016 | Research/Cooperation

Jonatan Lundin is an externally-employed doctoral student at MDH and in his research he has mapped out how service technicians seek information in their work environment. The results can be used to improve the information design of technical user manuals. Above all this can make work in industry faster, safer and more efficient.

 

User manuals for industrial products are expensive to produce – but are seldom used. This can entail consequences such as inefficient maintenance, increased risks for staff and a waste of resources.
It is a practical problem that I want to do something about. My research is about how people using technical products seek information when they have problems, with the aim of understanding how user manuals should be designed so that they actually serve their purpose and are used, says Jonatan Lundin, externally-employed doctoral student at the Innofacture Research School at MDH.

Jonatan Lundin has carried out his study at a Swedish industrial company, where he, by means of observations, has monitored seven service technicians. The goal was to map out what type of information they expressed having a need for, and where they looked to satisfy their need for information. The results of his Licentiate thesis show that manuals are very seldom used. Primarily the users turn to colleagues, analogue sources such as printed work orders, digital sources such as the company’s databases, or to the product itself for information.
One interesting result as well is that the users seldom look for instructions. A lot of needs instead are about for example finding out information about the identity of products, such as the model number, or they seek confirmation as to whether they should perform an operation or not, says Jonatan Lundin.

New manuals should be based on the users' needs

The study is the first of its kind to examine how users’ search behaviour can influence the design of technical information. Jonatan Lundin considers that information design should be adapted to the users’ needs. In his continued research towards a doctoral degree he wants to apply the results to create better user manuals.
Research shows that people choose sources that quickly give the information that’s needed, which puts new demands on information design. My proposal is that user manuals should be designed so that the users find answers to their questions more easily. If the manuals become better, then the products will become better, he says.

Defends his Licentiate thesis on 29 January

Jonatan Lundin lives in Västerås with his family. He has a Master’s degree in Engineering, Design and Communication from Linköping University and many years’ experience as an information designer and project manager in documentation projects at ABB. On 29 January he will publicly defend his Licentiate thesis ”Designing technical information – challenges regarding service engineers’ information-seeking behaviour” at Mälardalen University in Eskilstuna.