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Understanding the user who isn't you

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A successful business has grown up out of the people’s typical response to user manuals – not to read them. (To be fair, some manuals are pretty inscrutable anyway.) TMTI (or Talk Me Through It) is a specialist call centre which handles customer support for several UK mobile phone operators, as well as other suppliers of electronic appliances. Good helpline support can keep customers loyal to a product or service. But there is a wonderful example of a product designed to be useable and foolproof the first time it is used and without any customer support: the Philips Heartstart defibrillator. Designed for use by a non-expert in the intensely stressful situation where a family member or colleague may have had a heart attack, it includes a diagnostic procedure before defibrillation to ensure treatment is applied safely.