Text of By Dr. Mike Downing Kutztown University of PA Adapted from Document Design: A Guide for Technical...
By Dr. Mike DowningKutztown University of PAAdapted from Document Design: A Guide for Technical Communicators by Miles Kimball and Ann Hawkins
Tags on clothes?A drivers license?A web page?A research paper?The US Constitution?An owners manual?Operating instructions/
Documents visually convey information to a variety of readers who possess a range of reading skills.Documents are not bound by any particular medium (print, electronic).And although, until about 15 years ago, documents have been static, today they can contain hyperlinks and will soon include embedded video (Adobe recently acquired Flash technology to enable videos in PDF files).
Writing is only part of the equation when it comes to document design. And while the writing must be perfect in terms of clarity and how it suits the target audience, other considerations must be made.For example: spacing, margins, paragraph indentations, titles, headings, subheads, headers and footers, binding methods, fonts, size of text, text boxes, images, and video.You must also consider where the document will be published.
The sender encodes and then sends a message which travels through a medium to a reader, who must then decode the message.
Ideally, feedback is provided and the sender has the ability to enhance or modify information and resend.
The entire transaction takes place within a particular environment and within a particular context.
Users are real peopleUsers do not want to read documents; they want to DO thingsUsers often approach documents feeling frustrated, confused, and/or lostWhen users read documents, they rarely read all the way through; instead, they pick the sections they need
Polished vs. Rough: A polished document can take thousands of hours to produce, particularly when you include revisions and elaborate art. Sometimes it is necessary to produce a highly polished document, and sometimes not.
Customization vs. Off-the-Shelf: If you are working for a client who has highly specific needs in mind, you will probably have to do a lot of customization. However, if you are working for a more general audience, you can use clip art, boilerplate, and other off-the-shelf elements.
When considering how formal to make the document, consider your audience.For example, a web page that features information related to operating a cell phoneand targeted primarily at young peoplewill look very different than a technical report aimed at a professional audience.
People react to documents emotionallyWithout reading a word, you can make people feel happy or sad, intense or relaxed. You can draw in a certain audience or you can repel a certain audience.For example, I saw an ad for a new CD by Insane Clown Posse. The design, or visual tone of the ad was, in my view, intended to draw in existing fans, entice potential fans, and repel mainstream fans (see next slide).