Posted in Uncategorized

Canon–you need better tech writers

In the last week, I have purchased two new (to me) pieces of technology. The first was an upgrade to an iPhone SE from my iPhone 5S.  I decided not to get the iPhone 7 because I had some serious issues with the new phone jack setup. So, when deciding between a 6S and an SE, there were few differences between them, and I’m used to the size of the SE. The few extra features on the 6S that the SE didn’t have weren’t deal-breakers for me–I could do without them. With a lower price as well, the SE was a better deal for me. The one feature I’m thrilled to use right now on my new phone is Apple Pay. I’m having a lot of fun with that! It’s linked to the main credit card that I always use, so there’s no difference in my purchasing that way, but it came in handy today when I went food shopping. My husband had driven the family to the supermarket, and I realized in rushing out the door, I had only brought my phone with me, and not my change purse. No matter! At the supermarket, I just had to provide my phone number for my frequent buyer card, and then use my Apple Pay to pay for the groceries. SUCCESS! I was thrilled.

The other piece of technology that I got was a new color inkjet printer. We have an old laser printer at home, but it’s a monochrome one. It serves us well for most things, but when I really need a color item printed, I’m out of luck.  As the STC-PMC projects and for my own business and family usage, it was time to replace the old color inkjet printer that was at least 11 years old by now and get a wireless color inkjet printer that we could all use with our various desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.  I did my research, and settled on a Canon PIXMA model, as they seemed to be the most affordable and best rated for the price range. I picked it up at my local Best Buy electronics store, and happily set it up to be a wireless printer that could print from any device in the house.

I was quite please with myself that I had done this…until I tried to print something. I kept getting an error saying that the output tray wasn’t open. Huh? I looked at the back, and opened one thing that I thought would be the output area. Nope. I closed it, and it didn’t work. I looked at the “Getting Started” literature that I used to do the entire setup–scouring to see if I had missed a step. Nope. No mention of an output tray.  I went online to look for a manual or some sort of help for this error. Didn’t get any farther with that. I finally did some more searching through Google, and finally–FINALLY–came up with this:

(If you can’t see the embedded video, it’s at

Seriously! It was that simple. I didn’t even notice that little tray, and I was fumbling as long as she was and was STILL stuck. I’m not that dumb–I’ve been around various printers and copiers since I was a teenager. I’d be the person that people around the office would call to un-jam the machine if there were problems, and usually fixed the problems. How could I have missed this? Well, first of all, the tray blends into the rest of the printer case that it’s easy to not notice it.  Second–and most importantly–THE INSTRUCTIONS NEVER POINTED OUT WHERE IT WAS LOCATED. I’m a technical communicator–I know to actually READ the instructions and manual to find something, or how to scour a company’s website for information. When you look at the error codes and solutions on the Canon site, it just says that if you receive the error, you open the tray, but they don’t give a visual of where it’s located at all.  If you watch this video, the narrator expresses exactly what I was experiencing, and it was only this video that helped me solve the problem! This video–or something like it–should be on the Canon website!

Once I fixed this little problem, my new printer works beautifully, and I’m happy with it. But seeing this grave mistake on Canon’s part…yeah. It made me wonder why that crucial piece of information was left off the quick start, when there’s room for it on the instructions. Even a small diagram showing the different parts of the printer somewhere would’ve been good. It was bad from a technical writing standpoint, but it’s also bad from a marketing standpoint. If it wasn’t for this non-corporate video, the brand loyalty that was forming would’ve been dust almost instantly. That’s bad for Canon, and bad for consumers.

Canon, I’m looking for a full-time gig, so if you need someone to audit and rewrite your information to catch things like this, contact me. Seriously. I mean it. When I looked at your community support, it turned out that your best suggestion was that you had to return the machine for a refurbished replacement? Um, no, this is an easy problem to fix, and yet you probably could get a lot fewer calls and send fewer replacement printers if you just showed this tiny piece of information.

What do you think, fellow technical writers? I know Canon makes a lot of products, and they have a good reputation, but wouldn’t this be an easy fix on their website, just to add this video to that troubleshooting solution on their site? Let me know what you think in the comments.

(And thank you to Karen Nieto for posting the solution on YouTube! You are a wonderful person for doing so, and I greatly appreciate it!)


Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who currently employed at Cox Automotive, Inc., and freelances as her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog,, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. She is very active in the STC, as a former chapter president for the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter, and is currently serving on three STC Board committees. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog. All content is the owner's opinions, and does not reflect those of her employers past or present.

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