sunroom add value to house mchenry county nmc exteriors & remodeling mundelein 10k kitchen remodel build on to my house modular additions for existing homes .. Chicago Drug testing

The Value of Adding Images to Technical Documentation

It's clich?, but true-a picture does paint a thousand words. This is an important message to remember when writing any sort of user documentation, such as an installation guide or an instruction manual. A document that makes judicious use of images and diagrams will be much easier to understand than one that is composed entirely of text descriptions.

I observed this first-hand years ago, when a junior programmer at one company was asked to update the software installation manual for their machine controllers. One of the first things he did was to strip away all the screen capture images, reducing the entire document to plain text. "These images are just silly!" he said. "They take up space, and they're just not necessary. I trust that anyone who reads this document will be smart enough to figure it out."

This turned out to be a huge mistake. The technicians who had to use the manual had a difficult time making sense of its instructions. They had to repeatedly ask for clarification, and one of them told me that the pure text descriptions were just too cumbersome to follow. They were fearful of using these instructions at all, knowing that a single misstep could lock the controllers into an irrecoverable state. It was a ugly situation all around.

The problem was that this programmer didn't try to make things easy for the users. For one thing, he failed to consider that some technicians were not native English speakers, and that they might struggle with the wording. More importantly though, this programmer expected too much from his audience. He wanted to reduce these instructions to their bare essentials, thinking that would be adequate. He failed to consider that even an intelligent, otherwise careful reader might be tempted to jump over instructions, or would gloss over some critical detail. This is a common pitfall when time is short, and when the users are confronted with pages and pages of bland text.

A few carefully chosen images, with suitable captions, can go a long way toward preventing that. When I saw that the junior programmer was stripping away all the screen capture images, I cautioned him against that. "These images may not be strictly necessary," I said, "but they help clarify a lot of details. For one thing, they show the user exactly which button to push, or which window to select. This makes the instructions much easier to understand, and reduces the likelihood of a human error." To this day, I wish that he had heeded my warning.

Were the users intelligent enough to understand the manual, as he claimed? Certainly-but intelligence is no guarantee against human error. Could the images have been construed as talking down to the user? Perhaps-but in my experience, sophisticated users seldom respond that way. Rather, most of them seem to understand the value that these images bring to the table. Perhaps it's because most of them know what it's like to be frazzled and pressed for time, and how easily important details can be lost in the text.

So remember-a picture paints a thousand words, and a single screen capture can be worth more than a dozen pages of text. It's a lesson that's worth learning.

V. Berba Velasco has a doctorate in Electrical Engineering and has been practicing his trade for nearly a decade. During that time, he has repeatedly found that good technical writing skills are almost as critical as good engineering skills. Dr. Velasco currently works as a senior electrical and software engineer for Cellular Technology Limited (http://www.immunospot.com), a biotech company in Cleveland, Ohio.

In The News:

Getting Past The Shoulds To Write

During the past few months I have received many questions... Read More

Memoir Writing Help, Memoir Writing Ideas

You might not need any memoir writing help, per se,... Read More

Revving Up Your Writing Productivity

Productivity begins by recognizing and valuing your brilliance, time, and... Read More

Be Concise

Concision. (Sounds like I made up another word.) It's the... Read More

Does Your Theme Contain Character, Conflict, Resolution?

Creative Writing Tips ?For a theme to work and the... Read More

On Writing and Poetry: Harry Calhoun in Conversation

"This is just brilliant. The whole interview is incredible? I'm?... Read More

Rejection ? Have the Right Perspective and Don?t Quit

If you're getting rejections from your submissions, please don't quit... Read More

Top 10 Common English Goofs by Web Authors

In reviewing and browsing web sites over the years, I... Read More

The Opportunities As A Freelance Proofreader in the UK

A UK based freelance proofreader should be able to provide... Read More

Uncommon Advice for Beginning Novelists

1) Convince yourself you want to do something else. If... Read More

3 Quick Tips on Plotting Your Book

Plotting a book can seem an overwhelming task when you're... Read More

What Does It Take To Make Your Memories Into Publishable Memoirs?

Why should you consider creating a memoir of your personal... Read More

Why Researching Is Good, And A Failure To Do So Is Not

What a lack of research could do to you.When creating... Read More

Have You Tested Your Theme Against Your Plot?

Creative Writing Tips ?How we usually begin the preparation stage... Read More

What Can Go Into A Plot?

Creative Writing Tips ?We all tackle plotting differently. How you... Read More

Hero?s Journey ? The First Threshold

Beyond three and four act story structure, lies the Hero's... Read More

Tips For Better Writing

It is certainly true that we don't get a second... Read More

How to Write Articles, Reports, and Books Quickly

Do you have trouble getting your thoughts and ideas down... Read More

Eight Ways To Write Your Novel Faster

I asked several writers how long it took them to... Read More

The Writer and the Web

If your dream is to get published, the chance is... Read More

Starting a Local Writers Group

My husband is no poet, so when I offer my... Read More

5 Ways to Break the Story Spell

You sink back into your favourite chair with a new... Read More

Ghostwriting - Making Money by Being Invisible

My bookcase take up one whole wall in the family... Read More

Overcoming Writers Block

Do you suffer from writer's block? Is there a pending... Read More

Comma Usage Made Simple

Don't they drive you nuts?You can visit all the rules... Read More

led street light retrofit street light savings Pete's produce ..
led street light retrofit street light savings Pete's produce ..