Simplified Technical English (STE) and minimalism are of great importance in writing user-friendly documentation, particularly for user content such as maintenance manuals. However, many technical writers experience specific problems when implementing STE and minimalism. The ASD-STE100 Specification is a complex document, and a disadvantage of this approach is its expensive learning time. Plus, literature about minimalism comprises complex documents, and training is scarce.
In this article, we’ll clearly describe the steps you need to take to implement the principles of Simplified Technical English and minimalism in designing optimized, user-friendly documentation. First, we’ll cover the concepts behind the Thumbs-Up Technique—principally, STE and minimalism. Next, we’ll detail the steps to follow in implementing STE. Finally, we’ll detail the steps to follow in implementing minimalism. By following the steps we’ll outline, you can apply the principles of STE and minimalism to your documentation quite easily. Read More
Tables get a bad rap—especially in the Web world where, once upon a time, Web developers misused them for HTML layout. But tables are still very useful for the purpose for which they were originally intended—a way to show relationships among discrete data points. From a user assistance perspective, we deal with tables in two contexts:
user assistance—Tables can present information or instructions in our documentation.
user interfaces—Tables can display information within a user interface itself.
In this column, I’ll review some of the basic principles of good table design from an information developer’s perspective, then discuss their visual design and interactivity. These principles and my examples provide the bare essentials of table design. When designing tables, a key information design objective is keeping them simple, so if you start needing more than this column provides, you might be making things unnecessarily complicated for your users. Read More
Picture this scenario: You are using an application to work on a time-critical project, and suddenly, you are stuck for want of information about a particular screen. Time is running out. You reach for the application’s documentation and spend a few minutes trying to figure out what to do next. Thankfully, you are quickly able to locate the relevant information and continue with your work. You are pleased with the documentation and praise the unknown writer.
In this case, the application’s documentation served your needs well. How did the writer of your application’s documentation know how to meet your needs? The most likely answer would point to the effective application and use of personas. Read More