A few weeks ago, I talked about how different people react to change, and how my parents are talking about getting a tablet. I finally had an opportunity to check in with my dad today and see how it was going with the TouchPad I had loaned him – I had given it to him one afternoon when neither of us had a lot of extra time, gave him a quick run down of the apps I had installed for him, and sent him on his way. He walked away, and I knew that he was going to have problems not knowing how to do certain things. Sure enough, that was the basic thing he told me today – that he had tried to do some simple things and couldn’t figure out how.

In the few minutes today I talked to him, he had mentioned he was trying to open and edit a Word document and also print it. Those are pretty simple tasks for him to do on his laptop, and he assumed that they would be simple on the tablet – and with a little instruction they will be simple tasks. However, I don’t think I installed an app that he could print from, and even if I had, I don’t know if his printer is even setup on their network. Once the tablet is setup correctly, that task would be as simple as getting the file onto the tablet (Dropbox, email, etc.), editing the file (Quick Office, Office Suite Pro, etc.), saving the file, and then printing the file. But if you don’t know what you are doing, there is a minefield of mistakes you can make. That’s why I think that tablets should come with an instruction manual.

Now, the things I say here could easily apply to computers, smartphones, and lots of other tech devices, but I want to focus on the tablets. I believe that there are a lot of people that buy tablets who are not using them anywhere near the capacity that they could, and that the only reason this is happening is because they have no one to teach them how. Most tablets come with very little in the way of instructions, and it is usually limited to how to turn them on, charge them, and what the different buttons and ports are. You might get pointed to an app store or email client, but after that, you are on your own. This leaves a lot of people wondering where to go next.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have looked at someone’s smartphones and noticed that everything on the homescreens is exactly the way it was when they took it out of the box. Not a widget or shortcut had been moved, and a lot of these people have used their phones for months already. Heck some of them even stare at me blankly when I mention the word widget. Andreas has been posting a lot of tutorials on how to do some of the basic things on an Android tablet, but if people don’t know where to look for tutorials they might never find them. Instead they are left with a tablet that rarely gets used and a wonderment of why so many people are raving about them.

Now, it’s easy for me to point out the shortcomings of this system and not give an idea of how to fix it. The problem is that the ever-changing tablet market makes it hard to have a good resource to send people to. I think one of the best ideas would be something like the online classes that Lynda.com does. Every tablet manufacturer could include a certificate for a free Android or iOS basics class that would take you a little more in depth into your tablet. Lynda.com could provide this for free to the manufacturers with the hopes of maybe selling some advanced classes once people use their site to learn more about their new tablet. The problem with this is, of course, the wide variety of Android tablets. You couldn’t get hardware specific, because every tablet would be different, and even some of the software would function differently due to the company adding their own software – but it could still give tutorials that are Android-specific, like adding and editing widgets, or finding new apps.

Of course the easiest answer could be to simply send them to Pocketables. This could be a bit overwhelming for someone not familiar with the blogosphere, so maybe you should pick out a few choice articles for them to get started. If you need some links to start with, here are a few helpful places to start. And I’ll be sure to check in again after I have given my dad a good lesson on how to do some of the basics on the TouchPad.

How to customize an Android home screen, part 1: Launcher basics

How to customize an Android home screen, part 2: Shortcuts and icons

How to customize an Android home screen, part 3: Widgets