I love it when things just work

The image is a still frame from a video I pulled out of my archive to edit and an example of things just working–I’m on the final approach to a silky touchdown at Orcas Island airport.

In user experience parlance, they call that customer delight. I recently had some experiences as a customer that delighted me. It was amazing!

I hope that my readers get to experience similar delight when they read my docs. Let’s unpack these recent delights to see how they might help improve my writing.

The experiences

It really started with a recent disappointing purchase experience, but first some back story.

About 20 years ago, I used to edit videos, among other things. Back then, computers took a lot of tuning (i.e. money) to meet the processing demands of video editing and effects. After several software and hardware iterations, I finally had a system that had the industry standard software running on a computer that could keep up with the challenge of video editing.

With that, I could finally focus on the creative and productive side of editing without having to fuss with the computer all the time. It’s not that I minded fussing with the computer–after all, that’s what I had been doing all along to get to this state of functionality and reliability. Rather, I don’t like fussing with it when I have other things that I want to accomplish.

It was truly a delight to be able to focus on the creative and productive aspects of the job. Having reliable tools made it possible to achieve flow. If you’ve ever achieved that state, you know what I mean. If not, read Finding Flow: The Psychology Of Engagement With Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalhi.

Fast forward to this past week.

I finally upgraded my very-consumer-y video editor (Pinnacle Studio) to edit some home videos. I’d used an earlier version a few years back and I recall it having a pretty low learning curve for what I wanted to do. But my version was getting stale, and they were having a sale, so…

I paid my money, got my download, and was ready for the delight to begin!

Not so fast. There would be no delight today.

The interface seemed more cumbersome, and the performance and responsiveness seemed more disappointing than I recall. It was really quite disappointing—especially since I’d upgraded my computer considerably since that last experience.

Back to the drawing board, I remembered trying another, much more professional, video editor, DaVinci Resolve in the past–basically the polar opposite of Pinnacle. Resolve is an editor for professional video editors with functions for every level of editorial experience.

Several years ago, I’d tried using an earlier version of this editor and recall it being somewhat baffling. It might have been the computer I was running it on—pro editing software REALLY needs high-end graphics card and as much CPU, RAM, and speedy storage devices as you can stuff into the box, which my earlier computer didn’t really have. Now, I seemed to have the right combination of system hardware, and access to YouTube tutorials, to get things done. I could try the free version, so why not? After all, I still had a 4-day weekend to figure it out.

Unlike my experience with the Pinnacle editor, I was editing and effect-ing like a natural almost right out of the gate! The software interface was unbelievably responsive, the interface almost seemed intuitive. And I could do some basic color grading (limited by my ability much more than the tool) to match footage from different cameras, etc.

That’s how a customer experience should feel.

I was delighted!


I was delighted because I could focus on the task (video creation) rather than on why I wasn’t able to accomplish the task.

For me, this delight had me rummaging through my hard drives looking for things I could edit. How crazy is that? Isn’t that how you want your customers to feel when they use your products?

On a similar note, my wife recently got an Oculus VR Headset. She loves it. It just works. Granted, it takes some setting up, but it has seemed pretty close to plug and play.  

In addition to the immersive video games, you can also immerse yourself in 360 videos.

I have a 360 camera (Insta360 One X2) and happen to have some 360 videos. Until now, it’s been little more than a novelty. However, by uploading a video from a flight I made earlier this year—a task that took 3 hours to upload 15 minutes (18GB) of video—we could immerse ourselves (one-at-a-time) in that flight. It was surreal. It was literally like being in the plane again.

I was delighted!

Elements of my recent delights

These delightful experiences had a few things in common.

  1. I could focus on, and enjoy, MY goals because the tools to achieve them didn’t get in the way or call out for attention that distracted me from my goals.
    How does a tool call out for attention? By constantly insisting that you do things for the tool and not for your goals. For example, demanding that you: change these settings, upgrade this video card, add more hard drive, download this plug-in, don’t forget to save before it crashes, and, of course, crashing.
    If you say, “But you need to do that to accomplish your goal,” you’re missing the point.
  2. The tools were easy to apply to the task. They seemed to know what I wanted to do and help me do it.
  3. I could be successful in incremental steps. I didn’t have to learn everything to do anything.
  4. When I needed help to learn something, I could find it quickly—quickly enough to not lose my flow. The resources helped me continue and they didn’t stop me such that finding the answer became my primary task—displacing the accomplishment of my goal (thank you to all those creators on YouTube for the 3-minute, task-focused tutorials! You are the unsung heroes of the internet).
  5. I was able to accomplish my goal and see that there was also more to learn. That made me immediately successful and showed that could continue to learn more.

Yes! Technical documentation can delight customers

How do I approach this?

  1. Know that it’s possible. You can’t achieve a goal if you don’t think it’s possible.
  2. Understand the customers’ journeys and where your documentation intersects with them.
  3. Know that customers come to your documentation as a means to an end (that is, accomplishing their goal). Shorten the distance to their goal wherever and however you can. This starts by knowing what their goals are and what obstacles they might face in trying to achieve it.
  4. Know that the product might contribute to users’ frustrations, even if it’s also part of the solution. Identify and communicate ways to improve the product.
  5. Know that this is a moving target. Today’s delight becomes tomorrow’s expectation. Keep on the lookout for what will delight them tomorrow.

Now, it’s back to my video archive to find more videos to edit.

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