Hardware setup design addresses the following aspects:
Goal: To prepare all components for use as quickly as possible with minimal effort and no opportunity for mistakes.
Provide everything the user needs.
Provide users with everything they need to set up the product and get it working. No one likes delays caused because (for example) "batteries not included".
Minimize setup tasks by performing them for the user or doing them automatically.
Perform as much of the setup as possible for the user, at the factory or point of purchase, to minimize the user's involvement. If some user setup is necessary it should be obvious and not require lengthy or complex instructions. Something as simple as a picture of a completed setup or pictures on the components themselves indicating connections to other components may suffice.
Tell or show the user what to expect.
Tell users what needs to be available in the environment and what restrictions exist. For example, tell them how many power outlets they will need and how far apart the cables will allow the components to be positioned. Establish a clear goal and tell users what they are about to do before they get started. Most users are motivated to complete the setup steps as quickly as possible so the equipment can be put into use. Establishing an obvious completion goal will help them to ensure no steps have been overlooked and help them to avoid having to back up and repeat setup steps.
Provide setup alternatives appropriate for various users.
If users of varying experience levels will be doing the setup tasks provide both Quick Setup as well as more explanatory step-by-step instructions. Users have various skill and experience levels, so don't assume that a "one size fits all" approach will satisfy each user's needs. If a Quick Setup procedure skips some decisions the user would normally make, and establishes default settings, make sure that the design allows the user easy access to modify the settings at a later time.
Show typical and exemplary results.
Show required or typical arrangements using illustrations, especially when the configuration consists of multiple interconnected components. Design components so that connection points are easy to reach in typical configurations and suggest component positions that facilitate setup.
When a setup situation offers configuration options involving interconnected systems and peripherals, the instructions should identify the different configurations and indicate any differences in how the setup is done and any operational differences that will exist after setup is complete. For instance, the instructions may need to provide additional information for different types of networks and networking connections.
Offer suggestions for efficiently connecting components.
If many interconnecting cables are used, recommend a cabling layout plan and order of connection. For example, it is usually easier to connect cables near the bottom of equipment first, working upward toward the top, to keep already connected cables out of the way.
Design components so they are easy to move.
Moving and positioning components should be straightforward. Tell the user when more than one person will be required. Provide handholds on heavy and awkward components. (Use the table for boxes under Unpacking as a guideline for providing handholds on components.) Use diagrams or provide labels on the component to point out the lifting points. Make sure lifting points are positioned for proper balance to prevent dropping.
Avoid the need for tools to remove covers and connect components.
Tools should not be required to connect external components, remove covers, or install internal components. Removal and replacement of covers should be simple and intuitive. Components should either be fully assembled or simply snap together. Users should be able to fasten connectors with their fingers. Thumbscrews, snap-in mounting clips, and pressure-fit mounting rails/slides are examples of methods that can be used to accomplish this design goal. Avoid finger screws that are too small and those that have sharp square edges. If the use of tools cannot be avoided rely only on commonly available objects and tools such as a coin, a flat-tip screwdriver, or a cross-point (Phillips) screwdriver, ensure that only one size is required and inform the user what will be required.
Design to accommodate a range of users' physical characteristics.
A person possessing very modest strength should be able to insert and remove all connectors and upgradable components. Specific forces will depend on the type of grip used, which in turn is a function of the shape and location of the component or connector.
A large person should find sufficient hand-access space to reach within the case to remove or install upgradable components and to insert or remove connectors. Specific clearance requirements depend upon the type of grip used, the size of the component or connector, and the reach-in distance. Consult Human Factor guidelines, such as Humanscale by MIT Press, to determine the exact force and clearance values on a case-by-case basis.
Buttons that cause media such as diskettes and CDs to be ejected should be large enough and protrude sufficiently from the bezel to allow a large person to use them easily. Bezel openings for media should facilitate easy insertion and removal at all likely installation heights and angles (desktop, floor, rack, etc.).
Provide positive feedback and design to avoid possible errors.
Provide positive indications of correct setup and obvious indications of incorrect setup. For example, design parts that snap together so they provide an audible click when seated properly, and design a printer cover so it won't close if the ink cartridge is improperly installed. Design to avoid situations that might cause damage to a component or injury to the user. For example, if the user must manually position the print head of an ink-jet printer in order to install the ink cartridge, make sure there are no sharp edges on the print head. And ensure the user can't jam the mechanism or dislodge the print head cable in the process.
Avoid additional steps and potential side-effects.
All customer replaceable and upgradable components, such as adapter cards and DIMMs, should be accessible without requiring the user to disturb, remove, or disconnect other components.
Provide clear labels for user-accessible components.
Clearly number or label all customer replaceable and upgradable components and insertion slots using normal 1-to-n consecutive numbers in a left-to-right and top-to-bottom orientation.
Establish reasonable time-limit goals.
Target no more than 10 minutes for the installation or removal of customer replaceable and upgradable components.
Provide instructions for recurring procedures in the product itself.
Provide instructions on the component itself for setup tasks that will be repeated during normal use, such as changing a toner or ink cartridge on a printer.
Provide correct illustrations for items the user has actually been given.
If specific components or connectors might be one of various styles used at different times throughout a product's life, provide multiple illustrations showing each different variation the user might have. This is especially important if an attempted incorrect connection could result in product damage or personal injury. In less critical situations show a generic version and use callouts in pictorial instructions to identify differences. This latter approach can reduce the cost of setup materials.
Use standard orientations for connectors.
Connectors should be positioned in standard orientations. For example, 24-pin and 9-pin D-shell connectors should be positioned with the longer edge near the top of the component. Similarly, the key on mouse and keyboard connectors and other DIN type connectors should be oriented to the top of the component.
Use color-coded connectors.
External connectors and internal connectors used with customer replaceable and upgradable components should be color-coded and use matching icons on both the cable and the equipment to identify the type of connection (printer, mouse, disk drive, and so forth). It should be physically impossible for the user to connect the cables incorrectly, especially when product damage or personal injury might result. Do not rely on instructions to ensure that connections are made properly.
Ensure that icons and labels are readable.
Icons and labels on connectors and equipment should be labeled with adequate contrast to enable reading in normal light. Avoid using embossed labels that may be difficult to read in typical lighting conditions. For example, white embossing on white surfaces is difficult to discern without sufficient contrast provided by shadows. Black embossing on black surfaces is difficult to discern in the absence of a direct light source.
Use connectors that are not easily dislodged.
Provide strain relief so that cable tension and weight do not cause inadvertent disconnects, especially when equipment is being repositioned. For example, use connectors with thumbscrews, twist-locks, or other styles of latching mechanisms.
Color code items the user will touch.
Color code component items the user has to adjust, remove, or otherwise touch during setup, such as pieces of tape securing access doors, plastic and paper spacers used to help secure internal assemblies, locking levers, adjustment knobs, and so forth.
Preinstall options and accessories.
Options and internal accessories ordered with a product should be installed prior to customer delivery. For example, a memory upgrade and CD-ROM drive ordered with a computer should be preinstalled. Options and accessories that are purchased separately should be easy for the customer to install without using tools.
Provide complete instructions in one place.
Setup instructions for a base component, such as a computer, should cover installation of supported options. Complete instructions should accompany an option if it becomes available after its base component.
In many cases setup instructions can be easier to follow when depicted in pictures. Use text and/or callouts to show details, such as information that varies between models. Use sequences of pictures to show actions requiring specific movements, such as snapping assemblies together or inserting one component into another. Pictures should be realistic, either photographs or artistically rendered drawings. Avoid abstract and symbolic graphics, which require too much interpretation and may be interpreted differently by different users.
Design for specific levels of user experience.
Setup for novice and occasional users should involve nothing more than connecting a few cables between components and plugging them into standard power outlets. Opportunities for incorrect setup must be eliminated. The design of each component and the setup instructions should assume the user has no prior knowledge of or experience with computers.
For experienced users productivity is of paramount importance. It is likely that they have done similar setups before and only need enough guidance to provide reminders and essential details. Setup instructions should be brief and to the point with supportive information located out-of-line elsewhere.
Large installations are typical in the enterprise environment and can involve many components with a large number of associated cables and parts. The initial setup instructions should remind the user to make sure that all components and parts have been unpacked and located. This will help the user avoid having to stop in the middle of setup because of a missing part.
Employ the UCD process to understand various users' needs.
Work with the product's User-Centered Design (UCD) team to assess the user's requirements and help pick the best approach. Various approaches to providing setup instructions may be more or less appropriate depending on the type and scope of the installation, and the skills and experience of the installation team. Roadmaps, step-by-step instructions, pictorial maps, videos, animations, and Web pages are some examples of ways to deliver setup instructions and related information. The UCD process will ensure that users are involved in the design to determine which approaches are best suited for varying situations.